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Hong Kong: Passing of Article 23 law extends iron fist of China to Hongkongers anywhere in the world

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‘The UK Government needs to be clear and unambiguous in condemning this new law, and ensure that its own pursuit of trade and business interests doesn’t shield the Hong Kong regime from criticism’  - Sacha Deshmukh

Responding to the passing of Hong Kong’s Safeguarding National Security Ordinance (Article 23), Amnesty International said it was a devastating moment for human rights for Hong Kongers living anywhere in the world.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:

“Article 23 is designed to extend the iron fist of China beyond Hong Kong, to intimidate and silence Hong Kong activists, journalists and students living anywhere in the world.

“As host to the largest exiled population of Hong Kongers, the UK Government must make it clear that it will keep people safe from the long arm of this brutal new law.

“UK businesses, media and NGOs operating in Hong Kong are also now especially vulnerable to the sweeping powers of Article 23, leaving them open to accusations of espionage and theft of state secrets. The UK needs to make businesses aware of the greater risk they now face working there.

“The imposition of Article 23 is a gross violation of human rights and a grave mistake. The UK Government needs to be clear and unambiguous in condemning this new law, and ensure that its own pursuit of trade and business interests doesn’t shield the Hong Kong regime from criticism or enable further repression.”

Sarah Brooks, Amnesty International's China Director, said:

“With this draconian legislation, the Hong Kong government has delivered another crushing blow to human rights in the city. The authorities have enacted this law in the blink of an eye, killing off any remaining shred of hope that public outcry could counter its most destructive elements.

“The passing of this law sends the clearest message yet that the Hong Kong authorities’ hunger to accommodate Beijing’s will outstrips any past commitments on human rights. The government has ignored ever-more urgent warnings from UN human rights experts that its approach to national security legislation is incompatible with Hong Kong’s international obligations.

“Above all, this is a devastating moment for the people of Hong Kong, hundreds of thousands of whom have previously marched through the streets to demonstrate against repressive laws, including an incarnation of this one in 2003. Today they lost another piece of their freedom - any act of peaceful protest is now more dangerous than ever.

“It has never been more important for organisations such as Amnesty International to stand with those Hongkongers who continue to risk their freedom simply by exercising their rights.

“We urge all those who can wield influence in Hong Kong – from governments and businesses to the UN and the EU – not to neglect Hongkongers in their hour of need, but instead to ramp up pressure on the territory’s authorities to respect human rights and repeal all laws that violate them.”

Article 23

Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) today unanimously voted to pass the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Article 23 of the Basic Law requires the government to pass local laws to prohibit seven offences: treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organisations or bodies from conducting political activities in the territory, and to prohibit political organisations or bodies of the territory from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies.

Amnesty  submitted a 34-page analysis of its proposals to the government during the consultation period. The submission found that the offences and changes to investigatory powers are not necessary nor proportionate for a legitimate national security need and are contrary to Hong Kong’s human rights obligations.

The Ordinance contains many troubling provisions, such as the vague and broadly worded crime of ‘external interference’, which could lead to the prosecution of activists for their exchanges with foreign actors. Meanwhile, the right to a fair trial comes under increasing attack with new investigatory powers allowing for detention without charge for 16 days and denial of access to a lawyer.

Amnesty recognises that every government has the prerogative and duty to protect its citizens and all others subject to its jurisdiction, and that some jurisdictions have specific security concerns. But these may never be used as an excuse to deny people the freedom to express different political views and to exercise their other human rights as protected by international human rights law and standards.

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