Officials from central government, HKSAR refute Western media reports on Article 23
Published: Mar 13, 2024 01:17 AM
Photo taken on July 14, 2020 shows the Golden Bauhinia Square in South China's Hong Kong. Photo: Xinhua

Photo taken on July 14, 2020 shows the Golden Bauhinia Square in South China's Hong Kong. Photo: Xinhua

Officials from the central and Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) governments have refuted Western media reports on Article 23 legislation by writing letters to media outlets such as the Washington Post and Bloomberg, pointing out their misleading reporting on the matter.

Hong Kong's Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung wrote to Bloomberg on Tuesday, strongly opposing one of the comment articles about the Article 23 legislation of the Basic Law.

Tang pointed out that the remarks about "external forces" mentioned in the article were clearly inaccurate, emphasizing that enterprises or organizations will not be banned from operating simply for working with foreign forces.

The legislation targets enterprises that collude with external forces and use improper methods, including making false statements, using violence, threatening to damage others' property or reputation, or intending to interfere, such as interfering with elections. He stated that normal business operations and external communications would not be breaking the law.

The Hong Kong official also pointed out that a Bloomberg article comparing the law enforcement actions of Hong Kong with those of Singapore and Australia is severely misleading, as the actions of law enforcement officers in Hong Kong are unrelated to political beliefs or backgrounds.

The draft bill of the Article 23 legislation stipulates strict conditions for the exercise of law enforcement powers and provides strict safeguards, such as limiting the time for relevant individuals to consult lawyers to 48 hours. Also, extending detention requires prior authorization, which is similar to practices in other countries, Tang said, while also criticizing the article for being hypocritical and having double standards.

The Legislative Council of the HKSAR is currently going through the review process for the legislation, and some Western media reports have come up with some misleading and inaccurate comments about it.

The Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR said on Tuesday that it has written to the Washington Post as the office is "deeply shocked" by the media's ignorance and double standards on Hong Kong following its editorial piece "With the new security law, Hong Kong doubles down on repression" published on Sunday.

"When I read the part about the Jimmy Lai case, I just can't help laughing. You insisted that Lai was exercising his right as the founder and owner of the Apple Daily when the newspaper editorialized in favor of US sanctions against Hong Kong officials, and that it 'seems like normal editorial decisions or the prerogatives of a media owner.' What about this: the owner of the Washington Post exercises his prerogatives of ordering you to editorialize in favor of foreign sanctions against US officials?" said the spokesperson of the commissioner's office.

On the Article 23 legislation, the Washington Post claimed that the public consultation period was "shortened." The commissioner's office responded that the US Patriot Act was passed just 45 days after the 9/11 attacks without a hearing being held.

"I wonder if the time for this legislation was also 'shortened' based on your standard? Have you ever bothered to opine against it?" the office asked.

Tang also voiced strong opposition toward the Washington Post's article. The legal proceedings against Lai and 47 others charged with conspiring to subvert state power are still ongoing, and it is inappropriate for anyone to comment on the details of the case, the Hong Kong official said, noting that all cases are strictly based on evidence and handled according to the law, and all defendants are protected by the law and entitled to a fair trial.

Also on Tuesday, the HKSAR government strongly condemned a report by UK newspaper The Times, which was headlined "Hongkongers to be jailed for keeping old newspapers." It is necessary to clarify and set the record straight, a spokesperson for the government said.

"Not only is the report extremely misleading, its headline is also completely wrong, which misleads people into believing that one can be imprisoned for possessing certain old newspapers, thereby generating panic among members of the public," the spokesperson said.

According to the results of public consultation on the Article 23 legislation, the majority of the total submissions indicated support and made positive comments, which reflect the common voice of the Hong Kong people, Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, a Hong Kong lawyer, told the 55th session of the Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

"I believe no one shall ever again feel at risk from bullying and intimidation at the hands of domestic terrorists in Hong Kong. Article 23 will serve as a crucial safeguard protecting the national security and social stability of Hong Kong," Ho said.

Equally important is that its implementation will codify necessary procedural safeguards in line with international human rights standards, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and international labor conventions, as stated in Article 39 of the Basic Law, Ho noted.

"Hong Kong will be safer than ever before, and I believe the Council will be pleased to know that human rights and the duties related to such rights will continue to be observed and exercised in the city," he said.