Hong Kong Drafts Article 23
"Soft Resistance" Law
Hong Kong Authorities Turn Attention to 'Soft Resistance' in the Drafting of Controversial Security Law Article 23
Hong Kong's Secretary for Security, Chris Tang, disclosed on Monday that the city's administration is currently assessing potential cases of "soft resistance" and "internet loopholes" as part of drafting Article 23, Hong Kong's anticipated security law, according to a report in state-backed newspaper Wen Wei Po.
Article 23, stipulated in the Basic Law, mandates that the local government independently enact laws prohibiting treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against Beijing. Its legislation failed in 2003 following widespread protests, only resurfacing after the introduction of the separate, Beijing-enforced security law in 2020. This law has raised alarms among pro-democracy advocates over potential negative impacts on civil liberties.
The local government has stated its intention to finalize the legislation of Article 23 by the end of next year, but the draft has not yet been disclosed or tabled. Several high-ranking officials, including Tang, the city's leader John Lee, and justice chief Paul Lam have mentioned enacting the legislation in recent months.
According to Tang, authorities are currently exploring the possible inclusion of espionage offenses in Article 23. This follows a recent revision by Beijing to its anti-espionage law, widening its scope and thereby granting China greater power to punish activities perceived as national security threats. The amendment took effect on July 1st.
Tang suggested that the government is contemplating amending the Official Secrets Ordinance, which currently defines espionage and related offenses concerning the unauthorized use of official information. Alternatively, a separate ordinance might be established to criminalize what he referred to as "modern-day espionage."
The security chief's remarks reveal an intensifying focus on "soft resistance." He characterized this as a trend involving "foreign forces" and "local agents" utilizing media, art, and culture to spread misleading accusations, stoking hostility towards both the local government and Beijing.
Tang expressed confidence that Hong Kong residents would display "a more positive attitude towards the legislation" compared to reactions in 2003, crediting an enhanced understanding of national security. However, he conceded that some groups might still employ "soft resistance" strategies to "demonize the legislation."
To counter this, Tang indicated the authorities' intention to leverage media platforms, in addition to traditional public consultation sessions, to disseminate information promoting the legislation. This approach signals a heightened effort to control narratives surrounding the controversial law.