Hong Kong's Heroic Struggle
In my “Week in Review” of 7/5, I led off with the amazing
protest in Hong Kong four days earlier concerning the
government’s attempt to pass legislation titled Article 23 that
opponents feel would severely limit freedom of speech and
religion; posing a direct threat to political and media freedoms as
As of 1997 Hong Kong was handed over to mainland China by
the British. Then-President Jiang Zemin declared at the time,
“Hong Kong’s tomorrow will be better.” But due to a severe
financial crisis that among other things has seen property values
plummet 66% over the past six years, and then the dislocations
caused by the SARS outbreak this past winter and spring, the
people are restless for a number of reasons. Article 23 only
The act was first proposed last September. Following is a
summary of some of the key elements. For your reference, PRC
is People’s Republic of China, PRCG – PRC government, and
HKSAR – Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Preserving the territorial integrity and unity of a nation lies at the
heart of the welfare of a nation. A breach of that integrity by
force or other serious unlawful means will, almost invariably,
lead to war. There is at present no offence termed ‘secession’ in
the HKSAR. To ensure the protection of territorial integrity and
unity of our country, we propose to create a specific offence of
secession, making it an offence to (a) withdraw a part of the PRC
from its sovereignty; or (b) resist the Central People’s
Government (CPG) in its exercise of sovereignty over a part of
the PRC by levying war, or by force, threat of force, or other
serious unlawful means.
While it is universally accepted that the freedom of expression,
in particular the right to voice dissenting opinions, is a
fundamental right in modern democratic societies .freedom of
expression is not absolute and carries special duties and
responsibilities. It is also widely recognized that the
fundamental national security interests and stability of the state
may sometimes be seriously endangered by verbal or written
communications, including those conveyed electronically.
Examples would include a speech inciting others to commit an
offence endangering national security .
We propose to narrow the existing offence of sedition so that it is
an offence (a) to incite others to commit the substantive offences
of treason, secession or subversion; or (b) to incite others to
violence or public disorder that seriously endangers the stability
of the state or the HKSAR.
While the sedition offence should cover one aspect of
communications threatening the security and stability of the
state, there is also a need to deal with seditious publications ..
We propose to narrow the existing definition of ‘seditious
publication.’ A publication should be regarded as seditious only
if it would incite persons to commit the substantive treason,
secession and subversion offences, and that it would be an
offence, with knowledge or reasonable suspicion that a
publication is seditious, (a) to deal with that publication without
reasonable excuse; or (b) to possess that publication without
The mere expression of views, or mere reports or commentaries
on views or acts, will not be criminalized, unless such
expressions, reports or commentaries incite others to achieve a
specified purpose through levying war, force, threat of force, or
serious unlawful means .
Foreign political organizations
.To thwart organization of such activities that would genuinely
endanger the state, it is proposed that an organization that
endangers state security could be proscribed .and where one of
the following circumstances exists – (a) the objective, or one of
the objectives, of the organization is to engage in any act of
treason, secession, sedition, subversion, or spying; or (b) the
organization has committed or attempts to commit any act of
treason, secession, sedition, subversion, or spying; or (c) the
organization is affiliated with a mainland organization which has
been proscribed in the mainland by the central authorities in
accordance with national law on the ground that it endangers
[Ed. note: This last provision is directed squarely at groups like
Falun Gong and was a major cause of the protest.]
So after perusing the above, you get a sense of the very broad
nature of the proposal. One could be found guilty of sedition /
subversion quite easily, depending on the mood of the
authorities, and of particular worry would be the treatment of the
press. Anyone writing a contentious article expressing an
opinion differing with that of the Executive Council, for
example, could be arrested for attempting to intimidate the
government, while exposing unlawful government activities
could be viewed as disclosing state secrets.
In other words, what those of us in the West hold as basic rights
are clearly at risk.
Thankfully, as of this writing the protests were wildly successful,
with one result being the resignation of a key member of the
council, James Tien Pei-chun, who by stepping down made
passage of Article 23 virtually impossible.
Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa was forced to table the
legislation indefinitely, but on Tuesday Beijing finally spoke up.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan weighed in at a regular
“I think the majority of Hong Kong people love Hong Kong and
love the country and they will support the government headed by
Tung Chee-hwa to finish the legislation.”
In other words, there’s more to come on this story.
[Source for Article 23 summary, South China Morning Post]
Hott Spotts will return next week.