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Hong Kong Passes Article 23 National Security Law

Hong Kong’s lawmakers have unanimously passed a national security legislation, which will come into effect on March 23.

The national security bill, also known as Article 23, covers five categories of crimes in Hong Kong, which include a total of 39 new national security crimes. These categories consist of treason, insurrection, sabotage endangering national security, external interference in the territory’s affairs, as well as the theft of state secrets and espionage.

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The first draft of Article 23 ran up to 212 pages and was ushered through Hong Kong’s Legislative Council at the request of the city’s Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu and debated over in just 11 days.

Article 23 is the second such security legislation since 2020, when the first national security bill was imposed by China. The bill was used to jail pro-democracy activists who had led widespread street protests a year earlier.

Under the new security legislation, crimes such as treason, insurrection, and sabotage involving external actors can carry life sentences in prison. Those found guilty of espionage and sabotage (which includes cyberattacks) can be given prison terms of up to 20 years. Additionally, current sedition offences have been expanded. For example, inciting hatred against the Chinese Communist Party leadership is an offense carries a punishment of up to 10 years in jail.

Hong Kong’s police have also been given new powers, including an increase in time for detention without charge, from 48 hours to 16 days.

As we reported following Filmart earlier this month, the likes of the Hong Kong Bar Association, European Chamber of Commerce and Hong Kong Journalists Association have all raised concerns about how the law will be interpreted.

Due to the vague wording of the law, self-censorship among Hong Kong filmmakers has been growing, and stories touching on political topics or that question government policy in Hong Kong and mainland China are harder to tell, along with ones that position police or other characters in positions of authority with corruption.

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