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Sunday, Jan 29, 2023

John Lee wants Article 23 legislation completed by latest 2024, says new draft targets espionage

John Lee wants Article 23 legislation completed by latest 2024, says new draft targets espionage

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said he has instructed the Security Bureau to make a second draft under Article 23 of the Basic Law to target espionage and focus on defensive measures against the new media. 
In an interview with a Chinese newspaper published Tuesday, the city leader hoped the legislation could be completed this year or in 2024 at the latest. 

Lee said the first draft can take care of all security situations already. The instruction for a second draft – with a focus on the risks brought by ever-changing and unseen spying activities – came following the 2019 mass protests that involved foreign forces interfering in the SAR's affairs, he continued. 

He added the Hong Kong National Security Law has three main goals – to prevent, stop and punish activities that endanger national security. 

“We shouldn't only punish activities that endanger national security. I focus more on the work of prevention,” Lee said. 

He stressed the importance of regulations and pointed out that effective defensive measures can deter foreign forces with ill intent. 

Many organizations use other names to hide their true identity as the agent for foreign forces, Lee noted. 

“We have initiated prosecutions against some of these groups, while some ceased operations and fled the city on their own. Yet, it would be better to have a firewall in the next stage [of the legislation]. It would be even better if these groups didn't come to Hong Kong at all.” 

Lee said he has ordered the Security Bureau and the Department of Justice to further study how other countries that practice common law keep national security threats at bay. 

On another note, Lee called on workers in the news industry to regulate themselves when speaking on the issue of fake news. One kind of fake news spreads false and ill-intended information, while the other kind endangers national security, he noted. 

Although the professionalism of the media has improved since the implementation of the NSL, there are still people who wish to achieve their political agendas and personal interests in the name of media work, like fleeing the city after raising funds or laundering money. 

Executive Councilor Ronny Tong Ka-wah, who is also a senior counsel, echoed the Hong Kong chief on completing the legislative work for Article 23 as soon as possible. 

“The work of restricting foreign political organizations to campaign in Hong Kong has never been done, nor that of restricting local groups from building ties with foreign political groups,” Tong said. 

“In other countries, crimes like treason and sedition always lead to life imprisonment or even the death penalty. Whereas under the NSL, the maximum penalty is only life imprisonment.” 

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