HK officials clarify hype over whether keeping secessionist Apple Daily ‘as memento’ violates Article 23
Published: Mar 10, 2024 03:31 PM
Next Digital Ltd and Apple Daily logos are display at the headquarters in Hong Kong, June 17, 2021. Photo: VCG

Next Digital Ltd and Apple Daily logos are display at the headquarters in Hong Kong, June 17, 2021. Photo: VCG

In addressing concerns about whether local residents in Hong Kong would violate the law under the Article 23 legislation of the Basic Law by keeping the secessionist tabloid Apple Daily "as memento" at home, local officials said it depends on whether the possessor has a reasonable explanation. The clarification served as a rebuttal to Western media hype targeting the law.

After the Safeguarding National Security Bill was gazetted on Friday and put into the Legislative Council (LegCo) for the first and second readings, the LegCo bills committee have been going through the draft bill during the weekend in reviewing the content of the draft. Secretary for Justice Paul Lam said that the crime of seditious intention will absolutely not hinder anyone's right to oppose government policies. 

During the review process, lawmaker Canon Peter Douglas Koon Ho-ming asked whether keeping "Apple Daily" as a memento at home would constitute possession of seditious publications, Ivan Leung, acting principal government counsel, responded that the question, related to the judicial procedures, can only be answered based on general circumstances, that is, whether seditious publications meet the criteria for exemption defense.

Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung said that after the legislation is passed, whether the possession of items with the intent to incite secession is illegal, it depends on whether the possessor has a reasonable excuse. "For example, 'I've placed it [seditious item] there for a long time, I didn't know it was still there, the purpose wasn't to incite, I didn't know about its existence,' that could constitute a reasonable excuse," Tang said. 

Apple Daily, the secessionist tabloid, depicted by Western politicians and media as the so-called defender of freedom of speech, issued its final hard copy in June 2021, after some of its senior executives were arrested on suspicion of violating the national security law for Hong Kong.

The shutting down of the 26-year-old newspaper, founded by modern-day traitor Jimmy Lai, is a symbolic move to bring the practice of the One Country, Two Systems onto the correct path by ending an era when foreign proxies and secessionist forces could meddle in China's internal affairs by cultivating agents like Lai and his media group, observers noted. 

Outside questions concerning the Apple Daily, Regina Ip, another lawmaker from the New People's Party, asked if a balloon printed with seditious words, such as "liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times", would constitute the seditious intention. "If there's a statue with seditious implications but no text, would it also be considered as seditious intention?" 

Tang stated that releasing balloons with secessionist logos definitely represents one form of expression of seditious intention, and creating statues with strong inciting messages could potentially be regarded as acts of seditious intention.