Joint Statement on the Hong Kong Government’s Consultation for Article 23 Legislation

We, the undersigned, representing civil society and human rights organizations across the world, condemn the Hong Kong government’s plans to introduce domestic security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.

The Hong Kong government formally launched the legislative process with a four-week “public consultation” on 30 January 2024. The law is set to prohibit seven types of offenses, including treason, espionage, and theft of state secrets. Many of these proposed provisions are vague and criminalize people’s peaceful exercises of human rights, including the rights to freedom of association, assembly, expression and the press. The crime of “seditious intention,” for example, proposes to punish those who “induce…disaffection against” against the Chinese government and “to incite any other person to do an act that does not comply with the law of the HKSAR,” which would include any peaceful criticism against the government.

The proposed law includes a number of procedural changes that will dramatically undermine the Hong Kong people’s due process and fair trial rights. The consultation paper advocates for extending police detention without charge, preventing contact between detainees and lawyers of their choice, and for denying those convicted under national security offenses their eligibility to up to a third reduction in their sentences for good behavior. It also advocates, without specifics, for “eliminating certain procedures” to “speed up” national security trials.

The introduction of Article 23 will bring further devastating consequences for human rights beyond those brought by the National Security Law when it was imposed by Beijing in 2020. These human rights guarantees–long protected in Hong Kong– are enshrined in Hong Kong’s de facto constitution, the Basic Law.

They are also enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which is incorporated into Hong Kong’s legal framework via the Basic Law and expressed in the Bill of Rights Ordinance, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

The National Security Law has been widely criticized, including by the UN Human Rights Committee which urged the authorities to refrain from its use and recommended its repeal. The UN Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women made similar recommendations. At China’s Universal Periodic Review on 23 January 2024, 18 UN Member States raised concerns about human rights in Hong Kong, and many cited the National Security Law and echoed calls for its repeal. To comply with its international human rights obligations, Hong Kong should repeal the National Security Law.

The last time the authorities attempted to introduce Article 23 in 2003, over 500,000 Hong Kongers took to the streets in protests with the plans abandoned. But now they can no longer speak out against it.

Foreign governments’ responses so far have been muted: Except for a few media quotes, most governments have yet to make formal and public statements opposing the law. This has allowed the Hong Kong government to claim that “None of the consuls general or business chambers consulted by the Hong Kong government over the coming domestic national security law opposed the legislation despite having areas of concern.”

We urge concerned governments to, individually or together with like-minded allies, publicly oppose the introduction of Article 23, and communicate these concerns directly to the Chinese and Hong Kong governments.

They should also hold Hong Kong officials accountable for the growing human rights violations in the city, by imposing targeted sanctions on officials responsible for introducing Article 23. The United States government was the only one that imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials following the imposition of the National Security Law; new sanctions by the U.S. and other governments on Hong Kong are long-overdue. They need to send a clear and strong message to the Chinese government that repression has a cost.

They should also introduce measures to protect the rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people and activists in exile from Beijing’s long-arm of transnational repression, including taking proactive measures to hold those responsible for intimidating the Hong Kong diaspora abroad.

We also urge foreign chambers of commerce, and international companies based in the city, to express concerns to the authorities and re-evaluate their business risks and complicity in these human rights violations.

Signatories (in alphabetical order)

  • ACTION Free Hong Kong Montreal
  • AfricaHongKongFrance AHKF
  • Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
  • Asian Lawyers Network (ALN)
  • Association of Hong Kongers in Western Australia
  • Aus-Hong Kong Connex Inc
  • Australia Capital Hong Kong Association
  • Australia Hong Kong Link
  • Blossom Community HK
  • Bonham Tree Aid
  • Britons in Hong Kong
  • Campaign For Uyghurs
  • Canada-Hong Kong Link
  • Canadian Friends of Hong Kong
  • Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), Cambodia
  • Center For Uyghur Studies
  • China Action
  • China Against the Death Penalty
  • China Aid Association
  • Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD)
  • Covenants Watch
  • Doublethink Lab
  • FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
  • Finnish Hongkongers
  • Free Tibet
  • Freedom House
  • Freiheit für Hongkong e.V.
  • Friends of Falun Gong
  • Germany Stands with Hong Kong
  • Ghost Island Media 鬼島之音
  • Halifax-Hong Kong Link
  • HKersUnited
  • Hong Kong Aid 港援
  • Hong Kong Centre for Human Rights
  • Hong Kong Committee in Norway
  • Hong Kong Democracy Council
  • Hong Kong International Alliance Brisbane (HKIA)
  • Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor
  • Hong Kong Media Overseas
  • Hong Kong Watch
  • Hong Kongers in San Diego
  • Hongkongers in Britain (HKB)
  • Hongkongers in Deutschland e .V.
  • 44.HongKongersinLeeds
  • Hong Kong Outlanders in Taiwan
  • Human Rights Action Group
  • Human Rights Foundation
  • Human Rights in China
  • Human Rights Watch
  • Humanitarian China
  • IGFM, Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte
  • Index on Censorship
  • Innovation for Change-East Asia (I4C)
  • Institute For China’s Democratic Transition
  • International Campaign for Tibet
  • International Tibet Network
  • Japan Hong Kong Democracy Alliance
  • Lady Liberty HK
  • Lamp of Liberty
  • Le Comité pour la Liberté à Hong-Kong
  • McMaster Stands With Hong Kong
  • New School for Democracy Association
  • New Yorkers Supporting Hong Kong
  • NGO DEI
  • Northern California Hong Kong Club
  • Safeguard Defenders
  • Scottish Hongkongers
  • Students for Falun Gong
  • Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR)
  • Texans Supporting Hong Kong (TX4HK)
  • The 29 Principles
  • The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation
  • The Hong Kong Scots
  • Tibet Initiative Deutschland e.V.
  • Tibet Justice Center
  • Tibetan Community in Britain
  • Toronto Association for Democracy in China
  • Toronto Hong Kongers Action Group (THKAG)
  • Uyghur Academy International
  • Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP)
  • Uyghur Rights Advocacy Project (URAP)
  • Victoria BC Hong Kongers
  • Victoria Hongkongers Association (AU) Inc. (VHKA)
  • Washingtonians Supporting Hong Kong (DC4HK)
  • Winnipeg Hong Kong Concern (WPGHKC)
  • World Uyghur Congress

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