One safe prediction for 2024…

…there will be no relief from NatSec. The trials of Jimmy Lai and the HK47 will make international headlines, and no doubt there will be more arrests for T-shirts and Facebook posts, more patriotism in schools, and more bounties for exiled dissidents. Then there’s the local (Article 23) NatSec Law – abandoned in 2003, but still needed to ‘plug gaps’. As the HKFP explainer says

…the city’s own security law should prohibit seven types of offences – treason; secession; sedition; subversion against the central government; theft of state secrets; foreign bodies’ conducting political activities in the city; and local bodies establishing ties with foreign bodies.

What will be in it?

Obviously new legislation on treason, secession, theft of state secrets, etc – presumably with looser wording, tougher penalties and weaker protection for suspects than found in existing statutes. 

Almost certainly a replacement for the colonial-era (1920s) sedition law. Although barely used in colonial times, the old law was resurrected after 2019, and charges for various forms of ‘incitement’ are now commonplace, such as for the aforementioned T-shirts, Facebook posts, etc. But the colonial legislation has a maximum prison sentence of just two years, so we can expect harsher penalties, in line with other NatSec offenses.

Almost certainly measures aimed at media, academic, cultural and other groups and individuals with links to ‘foreign bodies’ that somehow threaten national security. Targets could be affiliates of international organizations that are critical of Hong Kong or China, or correspondents and academics suspected as spies or insurrection-plotters.

Probably new powers that in effect tighten control of the press, eg giving enforcement agencies greater powers to investigate suspected secessionist or subversive materials. 

Probably provisions attempting to do something similar with the Internet.

Maybe some sort of measures to counter other ‘soft resistance’ – activities or expressions the authorities wish they could treat as illegal but currently can’t. No-one seems to be able to produce a specific definition; perhaps the best way of looking at it is that if sedition laws aim to limit particular opinions, ‘soft resistance’ targets attitude. Maybe a ‘picking quarrels’ type of offense? Or somehow penalizing lack of sincerity or enthusiasm in expressing loyalty or patriotism? There has been behind-the-scenes controversy over this, but no signs that the authorities will listen to warnings of NatSec ‘overkill’.

Twenty years ago during the first attempt to implement Article 23, there was a serious public consultation exercise – of which many of us have fond or other memories. It is hard to believe that the authorities will be at all flexible with the 2024 edition.

Indeed, transparency of any sort doesn’t seem to be much of a priority. From Transit Jam on Sunday…

An index of 106 Hong Kong National Security Law (NSL) and sedition judgements has disappeared from a new Department of Justice (DOJ) webpage just days after its publication, with no explanation forthcoming from DOJ.

Originally launched on Thursday, DOJ’s “Annotations” webpage featured a useful and comprehensive index of all NSL- and sedition-related judgements under the NSL regime … in English only – aimed at improving transparency and international understanding of Hong Kong’s national security environment and serving as, according to DOJ, a “convenient and practical tool for promoting national security education and conducting legal research”. At its launch Thursday, Secretary for Justice, Paul Lam said “This body of case-law helps us understand the requirements of our national security laws and how they are being applied by the courts.”

…The index deletion in Hong Kong could signify tension between Hong Kong’s desire to give the international community transparency on NSL and the central government’s handling of “negative social phenomena”, a battle between face and facts. 

Transit Jam’s copy of the site.

Maybe at some point, reputational and overall economic harm will cause policymakers in high places to consider reining in the whole NatSec thing. But not in 2024.

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9 Responses to One safe prediction for 2024…

  1. Cassowary says:

    Reputational harm, haha. “Of course people will invest their money in China if we don’t allow anyone to talk about how they might lose it, what could possibly go wrong?”-Xi, probably.

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    Can’t wait for the “Four Expectations” and “Seven Offences” to become enshrined in some sort of pamphlet or text for kiddos to study in school starting around, oh, kindergarten?

    “Almost certainly measures aimed at media, academic, cultural and other groups and individuals with links to ‘foreign bodies’ that somehow threaten national security. Targets could be affiliates of international organizations that are critical of Hong Kong or China, or correspondents and academics suspected as spies or insurrection-plotters.”

    Wondering if the Mormons, Jehovah’s and any other “fringe-ish” cults (despite their alleged neutrality) will be feeling a little heat and reconsidering their real estate holdings in the SAR?

  3. reductio says:

    I wonder how HK international schools are going to handle a new improved NSL. A big selling point is encouraging open debate, development of critical analysis, yada yada:

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of money grubbers. Education my ass – show me the money!

  4. Load Toad says:

    They want us to be totally a police state, and to think otherwise is just stupid.

    They also want to pretend that this is still 1990’s free, open and vibrant HKG.

    Amusing if it wasn’t tragic

  5. someone says:

    Given that Lee and his de facto number 2 are both flatfoots, is it surprising that national insecurity is top of the pops?
    As an aside what the betting that Tang is destined to be the next CE – unless,of course, he goes really overboard on his public pronouncements.

  6. HK-Cynic says:

    “local bodies establishing ties with foreign bodies.”

    So does that mean that the Government can go ahead and shut down the Hong Kong Tourism Board?

    I would think that shutting down the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office will also happen in short order.

    That’s one way to help lower the budget deficit going forward if those expenses can now be eliminated.

  7. Mary Melville says:

    On a lighter note, looks like our elderly demographic will receive a boost.
    This week’s Pearl Magazine included interviews with some Top Talent Pass Schemers.
    One lass plans to stay for seven years ………… so that she can get PR and then bring her parents here to enjoy the benefits, like healthcare.
    The clip showed her teaching a kid at a tutorial centre how to subtract five from seven.

  8. Northern Menace says:

    “local bodies establishing ties with foreign bodies” could eventually mean the Apple Store.

  9. ex-pd says:

    and what about university language departments? including English?

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