Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Responding to the passing of Hong Kong’s Safeguarding National Security Ordinance (Article 23), Amnesty International’s China director Sarah Brooks said:

“With this draconian legislation, the Hong Kong government has delivered another crushing blow to human rights in the city. The authorities have enacted this law in the blink of an eye, killing off any remaining shred of hope that public outcry could counter its most destructive elements.

“The passing of this law sends the clearest message yet that the Hong Kong authorities’ hunger to accommodate Beijing’s will outstrips any past commitments on human rights. The government has ignored ever-more urgent warnings from UN human rights experts that its approach to national security legislation is incompatible with Hong Kong’s international obligations.

“Above all, this is a devastating moment for the people of Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of whom have previously marched through the streets to demonstrate against repressive laws, including an incarnation of this one in 2003. Today they lost another piece of their freedom – any act of peaceful protest is now more dangerous than ever.

“It has never been more important for organizations such as Amnesty International to stand with those Hongkongers who continue to risk their freedom simply by exercising their rights.

“We urge all those who can wield influence in Hong Kong – from governments and businesses to the UN and the EU – not to neglect Hongkongers in their hour of need, but instead to ramp up pressure on the territory’s authorities to respect human rights and repeal all laws that violate them.”


Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) today unanimously voted to pass the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Article 23 of the Basic Law requires the government to pass local laws to prohibit seven offences: treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the territory, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the territory from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.

Amnesty International submitted a 34-page analysis of its proposals to the government during the consultation period. The submission found that the offences and changes to investigatory powers are not necessary nor proportionate for a legitimate national security need and are contrary to Hong Kong’s human rights obligations.

The Ordinance contains many troubling provisions, such as the vague and broadly worded crime of ‘external interference’, which could lead to the prosecution of activists for their exchanges with foreign actors. Meanwhile, the right to a fair trial comes under increasing attack with new investigatory powers allowing for detention without charge for 16 days and denial of access to a lawyer.

Amnesty recognizes that every government has the prerogative and duty to protect its citizens and all others subject to its jurisdiction, and that some jurisdictions have specific security concerns. But these may never be used as an excuse to deny people the freedom to express different political views and to exercise their other human rights as protected by international human rights law and standards.

Tags: Hong Kong, Human Rights, Freedom of expression.