Hong Kong is about to enact another security law on top of the draconian one Beijing imposed following prodemocracy protests in 2020. Known as Article 23, the new law includes a vague definition of state secrets, just like that under mainland Chinese law; the power to hold suspects without charges; and punishments for people who publish “false or misleading statements.”
The city’s mini constitution, which came into effect with its handover to China in 1997, actually requires the passage of Article 23. But no previous Hong Kong leader has been willing to take it on for fear of a ferocious backlash. In fact, the city’s government introduced a version of the article in 2003 but wound up shelving it under widespread criticism that the law violated Hong Kong’s special status.
John Lee, Hong Kong’s chief executive, will face no such dissension this time around. The 2020 national-security law, combined with British colonial regulations that the city has resuscitated to criminalize political speech, have obliterated civic space. The government has reengineered the electoral process to wipe out opposition at every level, and stunt elections have replaced the city’s democratic model with “patriotic rule.”