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Hong Kong’s Proposed Article 23 Law Would Sever Foreign Ties, Restrict Information Flow

The Hong Kong government has proposed draft legislation to implement Article 23 of the Hong Kong Basic Law. The proposed law has provisions that increase prison sentences for various crimes if they involve colluding with “foreign forces.” Legal scholars have said that the broad definition of “foreign forces” in the draft, combined with the explicit criminalization of espionage-related activities, forms a stronger “firewall” that could cut off international connections to Hong Kong.

The draft states that “foreign forces” include foreign governments, foreign political parties, overseas organizations pursuing political agendas, and international organizations. “Colluding with foreign forces” refers to cooperating with them or acting under their control or funding. Some crimes would carry heavier sentences if foreign forces are involved.

A new “foreign interference crime” prohibits actions aimed at interfering in policymaking, elections or judiciary operations in Hong Kong using improper means like intentionally making false statements. This is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Eric Lai, a research fellow at Georgetown Center for Asian Law, points out that the broad definitions and heavy penalties for collusion appear aimed at severing connections between Hong Kong and overseas entities, impeding the flow of information, resources and funds. The draft also criminalizes illegally obtaining or disclosing state secrets under a broad definition.

Lai argues these measures create a stronger “firewall”, allowing authorities to block outbound information flows on national security grounds while restricting inbound overseas information. Certain provisions also give police powers to restrict detainees’ access to lawyers in national security cases.

Source: Central News Agency (Taiwan), March 12, 2024