Article 23 fully aligns with intl laws and practices, protects human rights: HK official at UNHRC session
Published: Mar 21, 2024 09:31 AM
Hong Kong Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan delivers a speech on the Article 23 legislation at the 55th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Courtesy of the HKSAR government

Hong Kong Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan delivers a speech on the Article 23 legislation at the 55th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Courtesy of the HKSAR government

The Article 23 legislation fully aligns with the principles of international laws and practices. The comments made by some countries and organizations on this are in complete disregard of basic jurisprudence and facts, and demonstrate nothing more than double standards and sophistry, Hong Kong Deputy Secretary for Justice Cheung Kwok-kwan told the 55th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Wednesday local time.

The passage of the law discharged Hong Kong's long overdue constitutional duty to enact laws on its own to safeguard national security, the Hong Kong official noted, adding that the Article 23 legislation will better protect our country from genuine threats to national security in the increasingly intricate geopolitics of our time.

On Tuesday, 89 lawmakers in the HKSAR, after marathon meetings, passed the legislation in a unanimous vote, and local lawmakers and officials described the passage as a historic moment for Hong Kong, expressing pride in witnessing it.

Cheung, as a member of the Chinese delegation, attended the 55th session of the UNHRC held in Geneva this week and engaged in exchanges with relevant parties, promoting the international community's understanding and support of the Article 23 legislation.

Each and every sovereign state has an inherent right to enact laws to safeguard its national security, including China, he told the session. Many countries have enacted a host of national security laws based on their own national security risks and needs. The US has at least 21 pieces of legislation; the UK has at least 14 pieces; Canada has at least nine pieces; and Singapore has at least six pieces, the official said.

The Article 23 legislation clearly specifies that the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law, as well as the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong, are to be protected in accordance with the law, Cheung said. "This important principle forms a cornerstone of the legislation, and is literally written in the new law," he added.

The legislation also strictly adheres to the principles of the rule of law, which is certain and clear, coming with appropriate exceptions and defenses. There is no question that the general public will inadvertently violate the law, Cheung stressed.

Following the passage of the Article 23 legislation, some Western countries and regions, including the US, the UK, EU, and Japan, voiced their concerns over the law, criticizing its contents as too vague and creating uncertainties for their citizens. Some fear that the fast-tracked law will "erode civil liberties" or could be used to "silence critics."

The Hong Kong official told the UNHRC session that the law has gained very wide support from the Hong Kong community, and any attempt to discredit or undermine it is misguided at best.

While the central government and HKSAR government vigorously repudiated the smear and slander campaigns launched by some Western governments, institutions, and politicians against it, the Chinese Embassy in the US voiced its strong dissatisfaction and opposition on Thursday to the US State Department spokesperson's criticism of the law.

The provisions of the regulation on relevant crimes are clear, with a distinct boundary between criminal and non-criminal acts, reasonable penalty settings, and appropriate regulatory measures, the embassy said.

Also, the definitions concerning "foreign interference" and others fully consider the actual situation of the HKSAR and draw on common practices from various countries, making them reasonable, lawful, and beyond reproach, it noted.

The embassy also emphasized that the passage of the legislation will not affect Hong Kong's existing capitalist system and way of life, nor will it affect the normal lives and legally exercised rights and freedoms of the local residents. It will not impact normal commercial and trade activities and international exchanges and cooperation.

We urge the US side to respect China's sovereignty, adhere to the principles of international law and the basic norms governing international relations, and immediately cease interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs, the embassy said.

Any attacks or smears against the Article 23 legislation will never succeed and are doomed to fail, it stated.

Cheung also told the UNHRC session that we are confident that the legislation will bring about a stable and prosperous future for Hong Kong, with the rights and freedoms enjoyed in accordance with the law fully protected, as always.