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Hong Kong presents its new national security law

Photo: Peter Parks Agence France-Presse Armed police stand guard outside a court during the trial of Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai.

Jing Xuan Teng – Agence France-Presse, Xinqi Su – Agence France-Presse, Holmes Chan – Agence France-Presse respectively in Beijing and Hong Kong


  • Asia

Hong Kong authorities on Friday unveiled their draft new national security law which provides for offenses such as treason and insurrection, punishable by life in prison.

This text must complement the national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 after the major pro-democracy demonstrations of 2019 in Hong Kong. It was officially presented on Friday morning to the Legislative Council (LegCo), where it will be subject to in-depth examination.

This new law responds to a “real and urgent need”, declared Chris Tang, the city’s security manager, before the deputies. “Hong Kong has suffered serious threats to national security,” he insisted, referring to the pro-democracy protests of 2019.

Legislative Council Speaker Andrew Leung promised that MPs would “spare no efforts and work together to address existing national security gaps”.

This bill lists five new categories of offenses in addition to those punished by the 2020 text: treason, insurrection, espionage, sabotage and foreign interference.

He proposes that treason, insurrection, sabotage endangering national security and inciting members of the Chinese army to rebel should be punished by life imprisonment.

The text also plans to broaden the notion of “sedition” (which dates from the British colonial era) to disaffection with the communist leadership and the Chinese socialist system. He also proposes to punish crimes of “sedition” more heavily, by increasing the maximum sentence from two to seven years.

Under the bill, Hong Kong authorities will be able to ask a court to detain a person without charge for up to sixteen days and prohibit them from consulting a lawyer during their detention period.

Like the 2020 text, this new national security law would apply to alleged offenses committed abroad.

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Accelerator boost

The text also proposes adopting a new definition of “state secrets” – covering not only technology, but also “major political decisions” and the economic and social development of the city. It also criminalizes the acquisition and possession of this type of information.

The Hong Kong authorities accelerated the legislative process and revealed the content of this new bill following a month of public consultations completed on February 28.

After presentation of the bill, the British consulate in Hong Kong urged local authorities to “allow time for serious legislative review”, to “align with international standards and to defend fundamental rights and freedoms”.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee earlier said Friday that there was a “general consensus” among Hong Kongers that the law should be passed “as soon as possible.”

Nearly 99% of the 13,000 people questioned during public consultations expressed their support for the creation of this new law according to the Hong Kong authorities.

Journalist associations, human rights organizations, foreign companies and diplomats have for their part expressed their serious concerns, fearing that this text will further restrict freedom of expression.

Nearly 300 people have been arrested and more than 170 charged since the first national security law imposed by Beijing took effect, which cracked down on all dissent.

China also plans new laws

China will also adopt new security laws in 2024 in order to “safeguard its sovereignty”, a senior official said on Friday, against a backdrop of President Xi Jinping's constant desire to eliminate any threat to his power.

The number three of the communist government, Zhao Leji, made this announcement in Beijing during the current annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC), of which he is the chairman of the standing committee – l body of around 170 members which writes and votes on laws.

In his presentation of the legislative agenda for the coming year, Zhao promised Friday that lawmakers would, among other things, “resolutely safeguard sovereignty, security and development interests of China”.

“In order to modernize China's national security system and capacity,” China will adopt “an emergency management law, an energy law, an atomic energy law and a law on safety from dangerous chemicals,” he detailed in his speech.

The ANP, in fact very dependent on the ruling Communist Party, also plans to revise “the law on national defense education and the law on cybersecurity”, he said. declared before the deputies.


Zhao Leji did not give further details on the content of these new laws, nor on the precise date of their adoption.

The annual session of Parliament each year in early March provides an opportunity for media, observers and ordinary Chinese to get a glimpse of the government's strategy for the coming year.

The ANP must also introduce and amend laws in areas ranging from financial stability to health.

“National defense education and cybersecurity are obvious priorities for Chinese lawmakers,” Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor and expert in Chinese politics based in Hong Kong, told AFP.

“They want to strengthen the legal framework in these areas, this is one of Mr. Xi’s priorities. »

Last year, China approved a revised anti-espionage law that significantly broadens its definition, giving Beijing more power than ever to punish what it considers threats to national security.

“Priority area”

A state secrets law passed in February added new categories of sensitive information, including “work secrets,” that is, information that is not classified as state secrets but which could “impede the normal activities of (state) organs or work units” if disclosed.

“One of the main characteristics of parliamentary work under the Xi Jinping era (started at the end of 2012) is to emphasize laws relating to national security,” Changhao told AFP Wei, founder of the NPC Observer website, specializing in the Chinese parliament.

He recalls that more than a dozen pieces of legislation on national security have been adopted in China since 2014, including laws on the fight against terrorism, intelligence and even data security.

“There has been significant work to put in place all the legal infrastructure necessary to safeguard “national security”,” underlines Changhao Wei.

Under Xi Jinping, “national security is a priority area of ​​legislation and will likely remain so for the near future.”

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116