The authorities are considering cases of “soft resistance” and “internet loopholes” when drafting Article 23 – the city’s own security law, Secretary for Security Chris Tang told state-backed newspaper Wen Wei Po on Monday.

Article 23 of the Basic Law stipulates that the government shall enact laws on its own to prohibit acts of treason, secession, sedition and subversion against Beijing. Its legislation failed in 2003 following mass protests and it was not tabled again until after the onset of the separate, Beijing-imposed security law in 2020. Pro-democracy advocates fear it could have a negative effect on civil liberties.

Chris Tang
Secretary for Security Chris Tang. File photo: GovHK.

“We are examining which behaviours have not been covered by the Hong Kong national security law and other laws, and [are] paying attention to ‘soft resistance’ and internet loopholes,” said Tang in a written response to the newspaper. He added that the move was “ to deal with offenses under the Hong Kong national security law more effectively.” 

The local government has said that it will finish legislation of Article 23 no later than the end of next year, but the draft has not been disclosed and tabled yet. Tang, the city’s leader John Lee, and justice chief Paul Lam have each spoken about enacting the legislation in recent months. 

article 23 protest 2003
Protesters march against the legislation of Article 23 on July 1, 2003. Photo: Peter Parks/AFP.

The government is studying on inclusion of espionage offences in the legislation of Article 23, Tang said on television on Sunday. 

Existing crimes

Currently, the Official Secrets Ordinance specifies espionage, spying and various offences related to the unauthorised use of official information. 

The security chief said that, whilst the offence of stealing state secrets was criminalised long ago, it may not consider “modern-day espionage” as technology has advanced. 

This month, Beijing revised its anti-espionage law to expand its definition, giving China more power than ever to punish what it deems to be a threat to national security. The amendment came into effect on July 1.

Tang said the government is considering whether to amend the Official Secrets Ordinance, or to establish a separate ordinance to criminalise “modern-day espionage.” 

National People's Congress npc beijing great hall
The Great Hall. Photo: Lukas Messmer/HKFP.

Aside from espionage offences, Tang has repeatedly spoken about the need to tackle “soft resistance.” He described it as the trend of “foreign forces” and “local agents” using media, culture and art to raise misleading accusations and trigger Hongkongers’ hatred towards the government and Beijing. 

Tang said the government expected “a more positive attitude towards the legislation” compared to what happened in 2003, as Hongkongers have gained a better awareness of national security. However, Tang said he thought there would still be groups of people applying the tools of “soft resistance” to “demonise the legislation”. 

The security chief said that, other than traditional public consultation sessions, the authorities would also make good use of media platforms to disseminate information to promote the legislation. 

HKFP has contacted the Democratic Party for comment.

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