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Hong Kong Overseas Community and Human Rights Organizations Condemn Article 23

145 Hong Kong and other organizations working to advance human rights in China issued a joint statement opposing the Hong Kong government’s new Safeguarding National Security law, also known as Article 23. The new law came into effect on March 23, 2024. 

The new law, which will severely erode civil liberties in Hong Kong, has been widely criticized internationally. Hong Kong authorities tried implementing the law in 2003 but had to withdraw in the face of mass protests. Article 23 in a nutshell introduces mainland China’s vague and expansive definition of “national security” and “state secret.”  It carries a maximum sentence of 14 years for a new offence on “external interference” and up to 10 years for colluding with an “external force”. The law increases maximum jail sentences to 10 years for criticizing the government. It provides extra power for police and fewer rights for detainees. Article 23 also targets the diaspora community and activists.

“Article 23 deals an irreversible blow to Hong Kong’s status as a global financial hub. The ambiguous language in Article 23 expands the legal ground for arbitrary political arrests to Hong Kongers — domestic or abroad — and foreigners who have ties with Hong Kong,” said Hong Kong Democracy Council’s Executive Director, Anna Kwok.

Signatories to the joint statement called on foreign government and the international community to:

  1. Impose sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible for undermining the rule of law in Hong Kong, particularly those involved in the passage of the two pieces of “national security” legislation; 
  2. Review the status of the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices globally, with an eye towards shuttering their operations;
  3. Offer asylum and other humanitarian pathways and provide temporary travel documents to Hong Kong human-rights defenders, especially those who have been labeled by S.A.R. authorities as “absconders” and are likely to face passport cancellation in the near future

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Hong Kong Democracy Council