Proposed national security bill threatens press freedom

February 20, 2003, New York—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today submitted a memorandum to the Hong Kong Security Bureau detailing serious concerns about the proposed National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill drafted by the government. In its current form, this bill poses a grave threat to freedom of expression in Hong Kong.

“The Hong Kong government invited public comment on this legislation, only to disregard many of the substantive concerns raised about its potential to restrict press freedom and other civil liberties in the territory,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “CPJ strongly urges the government and, specifically, members of the Legislative Council to revise this bill so that it does not unduly restrict Hong Kong citizens’ right to free expression.”

Under Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the territory’s constitution, Hong Kong is required to enact “on its own” legislation covering subversion, sedition, secession, and theft of state secrets. (The Basic Law came into effect upon Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997.) CPJ believes that the proposed legislation exceeds the requirements of Article 23 and should not be enacted.

CPJ had earlier presented a formal submission to the Security Bureau in response to the Consultation Document concerning this legislation.

In this previous submission, dated December 9, 2002, CPJ joined journalists, lawyers, and legislators in Hong Kong in calling for such sensitive legislation to be released first in the form of a “White Bill,” which could be reviewed by the public and amended as necessary before being submitted to the Legislative Council. The Hong Kong government has ignored this request by issuing the draft legislation as a “Blue Bill” that will be more difficult to modify.

The government has announced that the bill will be introduced in the Legislative Council on February 26. The Hong Kong Bar Association issued a statement asking that the bill “not be rushed” through the Legislative Council, which has only 24 of its 60 members elected directly by the public. The group suggested that the legislature’s consideration of the bill “be deferred until the public has had time to consider the bill and make its views known to the administration so that amendments could still be made to the bill before the legislative process gets under way.”

Please click here to read CPJ’s memorandum to the Hong Kong Security Bureau.