China’s top legislative body passed a revised National Security Law on Wednesday that for the first time includes both Hong Kong and Macau. Its passing has renewed concerns that Hong Kong may soon adopt its own security legislation.

154 members of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee voted in support of the law, with zero opposed.

NPC chamber
NPC chambers in the Great Hall of the People, Beijing. Photo: China Daily.

Article 11 of the new security law, which takes effect immediately, says that “safeguarding China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is the common obligation of all Chinese people, including those in Hong Kong and Macau as well as Taiwan.”

This point is then highlighted once again by Article 40, which states: “The Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau must fulfill their responsibility to safeguard national security.”

National security is defined in the law as “state power, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.” The greatest challenges to these, however, arise mainly from within the nation’s borders. The legislation promises to “prevent, stop and punish treason, separatism, inciting subversion and leaking state secrets.”

The revised law is also the first to address cybersecurity, providing Beijing with the legal means to further criminalise online expression. Article 26 deals with preventing and punishing “dissemination of unlawful and harmful information” and defending “cyberspace sovereignty.”

Article 23 demonstration
Protest against Article 23 on July 1, 2003.

Local NPC deputy Stanley Ng has called for the same laws to be applied to Hong Kong, urging the government to pass the territory’s own security bill, Article 23, “as quickly as possible.”

Article 23 was shelved in 2003 after half a million Hong Kongers demonstrated against the controversial bill. Lawmakers withdrew their support.

In an official response, Hong Kong’s government agreed that the territory has the responsibility to safeguard China’s national security and to pass Article 23; however, they say that the current administration has no plans to reintroduce the bill.

Ryan Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others