The Memo: Contentious security law passes in Hong Kong despite prolonged protests

Group 723.png

Contentious security law passes in Hong Kong despite prolonged protests

James Westmacott - 2 April 2024

Protestors in Hong Kong have long since opposed government plans to enact stricter national security laws, fearing ever more draconian measures that impede on the population’s civil liberties. Whilst the original National Security Law (NSL) controversially passed back in 2020, prohibiting secession from China, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign governments, the updated version, known as Article 23, now enshrines life sentences for charges of treason, insurrection, or sabotage into law. As a result, the move further deepens Hong Kong’s ties to China, while severely limiting the rights and freedoms of its inhabitants in relation to political protest.

The political authorities in Hong Kong have long sought the implementation of Article 23, with their first significant attempt made over 20 years ago in 2003, instigating mass protests across the city. Utilising overtly tactical methods, the Hong Kong Legislative Council attempted to sneak through such legislation during the SARS crisis, whilst its 2020 attempt came about during COVID-19, with both events weakening citizens’ ability to take to the streets in protest.

However, the latest iteration of the NSL marks a significant break from Hong Kong’s unique past. A British colony until 1997, Hong Kong subsequently became a Special Administrative Region of China, meaning it retained its own legislative powers away from the Chinese state. Of particular pertinence to this unique legal case is the likelihood that the Uwill argue that Hong Kong’s most recent NSL attempt has compromised the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed between the two nations in 1984. With the pact having guaranteed autonomy in Hong Kong for 50 years, the UK made a case for its breach in 2020, and the gravity of the situation has been increasing ever since. Only time will tell what the true repercussions of such legislation will be, though fears duly linger over human rights for Hong Kong citizens while tourism and business sectors are also expected to take a hit in due course.