Hong Kong is expected to pass its own security law in the first half of next year but it will only affect “a small group of people,” according to an influential pro-Beijing politician.

“Even if we legislate Article 23 or national security law, actually [it] will impact only a small group of people, not the majority, and these people have been warned repeatedly to stop, or else they will face legal consequences,” said Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate to China’s National People’s Congress.

Tam Yiu-chung
Tam Yiu-chung. File Photo: LegCo.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam made a similar pledge when Beijing imposed its own separate national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020. She said it would only target an “extremely small group” while protecting the majority of citizens.

Since then over 150 people have been arrested under the law, tens of thousands of people have emigrated for various reasons and dozens of civil society groups, including the organisers of the city’s annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil, have disbanded.

“How do we stop foreign forces from using Hong Kong to subvert and harm national security or affect the development of the country…” said Tam on Commercial Radio on Sunday.

“These [issues] are not directly relevant to ordinary citizens, because ordinary citizens won’t do these things, it’s only a small group of people with ulterior motives or those who were bought that would do these things.”

article 23
A banner against Article 23 security law. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

The city’s security chief Chris Tang said last week that it was the “best time” since Hong Kong’s handover to legislate Article 23.

Article 23 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Hong Kong government shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against the central government.

The administration’s first attempts to do so in 2002 and 2003 sparked a protest with a reported 500,000 headcount, and the resignation of then-secretary for security Regina Ip. 

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee
Regina Ip in 2003. Photo: GovHK.

The government has always had enough votes to pass the law, but it has never been raised since the 2003 debacle.

Tam was sanctioned by the US authorities in January.

‘Back to normal’

The Beijing-imposed national security law already in force criminalises subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure.

Workers removing barricades outside the government headquarters on October 3, 2021. Photo: Now News, via video screenshot.

Huge water-filled barricades outside government headquarters, the legislature and other buildings, erected during the sometimes violent protests of 2019, are being removed.

Chief Secretary John Lee said Hong Kong’s safety and stability have returned as a result of the security law.

“‘Hong Kong’s national security law saw immediate results. Destructive and counterrevolutionary powers have fully diminished, external forces dare not openly intervene and destroy Hong Kong,” Lee wrote in a blog post.

“Hong Kong’s safety and stability have returned; citizens’ lives are back to normal.”

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.