The legislation of Hong Kong’s own security law will be “effective” and “without” loopholes, Chief Executive John Lee has said. His comments came after a bill regarding the implementation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which mandates the city must pass such legislation, was left off the legislature’s schedule for the rest of 2022.

basic law
Basic Law. File photo: GovHK.

The Legislative Council’s House Committee received an updated list of bills the government intends to bring into the legislative body in 2022 on Friday. Noticeably absent from the document was the Security Bureau’s Safeguarding National Security Bill, which had been present in a previous version of the list submitted in January.

According to the January programme, the bill was scheduled to be introduced to the legislature in the second half of 2022. It dealt with the implementation of Article 23 – part of the Basic Law which mandates that the city pass its own security law – as well as the enhancement of “relevant laws for safeguarding national security.”

In April, then leadership hopeful Lee said that legislating the city’s security law would be “one of the priorities” of his administration. The following month, Secretary for Security Chris Tang said that the legislation of Article 23 had been delayed by the city’s fifth wave of Covid-19. Public consultation on the bill was initially expected to have begun in May.

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During his weekly meeting with the press on Tuesday morning, Lee said that the government wanted to make sure the law was “truly effective” when implemented.

Citing a “rapid deterioration” in geopolitics, Lee said that internationally, “we have seen countries’ national security endangered in once unimaginable ways,” without referring to any specific instances.

He said the government needed to conduct more in-depth and comprehensive studies into measures that have been adopted elsewhere. “After passing the law, we do not want there to be loopholes that mean we have to review it again,” Lee said.

Additionally, Lee said some common law jurisdictions had recently introduced “very stringent” proposals to their legislations, which could bar individuals who were believed to threaten national security from leaving certain premises for an indefinite amount of time. He did not mention which jurisdictions or legislative proposals he was referring to.

John Lee presser CGO executive council
Chief Executive John Lee meets the press on October 11, 2022. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Lee said the government was keeping a close eye on how such proposals were being handled in these countries and “how to balance issues involving human rights.”

“We need to examine [these examples] clearly, so that we can write up a law, while completely adopting the language of the Common Law, that is sufficient to safely protect our country from national security threats and risks,” Lee added.

The first attempt to pass Article 23 was overseen by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s administration and took place from 2002 to 2003, sparking a protest of more than 500,000 people, and leading to the resignation of then-secretary for security Regina Ip.

See also: How Hong Kong plans a series of new laws to further tighten its grip

In response to an enquiry from HKFP, a Security Bureau spokesperson said the government would continue to actively push forward the legislation work of Article 23, and “carry out public consultation when time is appropriate.”

The spokesperson added that the legislation in question was a constitutional responsibility and a necessity for the city.

However, the bureau did not directly address HKFP’s question on whether it had come across any difficulties in introducing the bill into the legislature.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.