Hong Kong government sends new national security bill to Legislative Council for debate News
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Hong Kong government sends new national security bill to Legislative Council for debate

The Hong Kong government released the new national security bill on Friday and sent it to the Legislative Council (LegCo) for deliberation.

The bill consists of nine parts, including criminalizing several national security offenses not covered in the 2020 National Security Law but listed in Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law. The bill criminalizes new offenses, including treason, insurrection and incitement of Chinese armed force members to mutiny that could result in life imprisonment upon conviction. The bill also allows the court to impose harsher bail conditions on suspects. The police may apply through the court for movement restriction orders if they deem it necessary, according to Part 7 Subdivision 2. Section 96 of the bill also stipulates that the criminal procedures in the 2020 National Security Law will apply to the new law.

The Secretary for Justice Paul Lam highlighted that the bill is a piece of local legislation written in common law traditions, which requires reasonable and practical clarity. Lam contended rights and freedoms are not absolute under international treaties, and necessary restrictions are justifiable because of national security.

While the government has repeatedly emphasized that the bill has received support from the vast majority, controversies and disputes have followed the bill’s introduction. Reuters reported that investors and legal professors have raised concerns about the lack of individual rights safeguards, which may discourage foreign investment. The Hong Kong Journalists Association similarly opined that the law could further stifle speech and press freedoms and that reporters attending any press conferences affiliated with foreign governments could constitute “collaboration with an external force.”

Foreign governments have also voiced their concerns about human rights safeguards. Previously, the US Department of State argued that the vague definitions of “state secrets” and “external interference” could be a tool to eliminate dissent through the fear of arrest and detention. The UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron also raised concerns about the absence of any reference to independent oversight and the lack of clarity on the procedures that will govern detention without charge.

In response, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Mao Ning counterargued that the definitions are drafted in accordance with the common practices of all countries and are well-tailored to Hong Kong’s realities. She also accused the US of discrediting the legislation with ulterior political motives and urged the US to stop interfering in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs.