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Updated January 30th, 2024 at 15:25 IST

Hong Kong Initiates Process for New National Security Law Amid Global Concerns

“Why now? We can’t wait. We can’t afford to wait. It’s for 26 years we’ve been waiting; we shouldn’t wait any longer,” Hong Kong's chief executive said.

Sagar Kar
Hong Kong
Hong Kong | Image:AP
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In a significant move with potential global ramifications, Hong Kong has formally commenced the process of enacting a new national security law, sparking concerns about the city's status as a global financial hub. The proposed legislation, covering offenses such as treason, theft of state secrets, espionage, and external interference, aims to "fill loopholes" in the national security framework imposed by China's central government in 2020.

Dubbed Article 23, Hong Kong's homegrown security legislation was shelved in 2003 after a previous attempt triggered mass protests, with half a million residents expressing fears that it would undermine civil liberties. However, this time, authorities anticipate no such public opposition.

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Here is what you need to know

Recent years have seen Beijing's security crackdown transform Hong Kong, stifling dissent, imprisoning political opponents, disbanding civil society groups, and shutting down outspoken media outlets. Despite claims from Hong Kong and Chinese authorities that the Beijing-imposed security law has restored order and denied curtailment of freedoms, concerns persist.

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A look at Hong Kong leadership's views

On Tuesday, Hong Kong's Chief Executive, John Lee, announced a public consultation for the new Article 23, emphasizing the urgency to enact additional security laws "as soon as possible." Lee cited rising geopolitical tensions as a factor, highlighting threats from "some Western countries" targeting China's secure development.

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“Why now? We can’t wait. We can’t afford to wait. It’s for 26 years we’ve been waiting; we shouldn’t wait any longer,” he said. 

"Foreign intelligence organizations, including the CIA and British intelligence agencies, have publicly stated that they will do a lot of work to target China and Hong Kong," Lee expressed, as per a report from CNN news, emphasizing the lingering presence of foreign agents and Hong Kong independence ideas in the city.

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The consultation period will go on till February 28th

The consultation period, beginning Tuesday and concluding on February 28, is notably shorter than the three months allocated for public feedback during the previous attempt over two decades ago. Lee justified the expedited timeline by citing the need to address rising geopolitical tensions and the looming threat from foreign entities.

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"While we society, as a whole, look calm and look very safe, we still have to watch out for potential sabotage, undercurrents that try to create troubles," Lee cautioned, emphasizing the city's "constitutional duty" to enact laws safeguarding national security.

The move to introduce a new national security law in Hong Kong adds another layer of complexity to the city's evolving political landscape, raising concerns both locally and internationally about the potential impact on civil liberties and global perceptions of Hong Kong as a financial hub.

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Published January 30th, 2024 at 15:25 IST

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