Govt condemns false news report

March 12, 2024

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government said it strongly disapproves of and condemns a report in The Times newspaper in the UK that contains the headline "Hongkongers to be jailed for keeping old newspapers".


In a statement issued today, apart from stressing that it considered it necessary to set the record straight, the Hong Kong SAR Government made it clear that the report on the Basic Law Article 23 legislation is extremely misleading and its headline is completely wrong.


It pointed out that the report misleads people into believing that one can be imprisoned for possessing certain old newspapers, thereby generating panic among members of the public.


According to the relevant provisions on offences in connection with seditious intention in the Safeguarding National Security Bill, the Hong Kong SAR Government explained that a person commits an offence only when he or she possesses a publication that has a seditious intention without a reasonable excuse.


Whether a publication has a seditious intention will be determined after all relevant circumstances are taken into consideration, including the context and purpose of the publication. Relevant provisions of the bill also stipulate circumstances that do not constitute a seditious intention.


As regards the offence of possessing a publication with a seditious intention, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant possesses the publication concerned without reasonable excuse before the defendant may be convicted by the court. It is not possible for a person who does not know the publication concerned has a seditious intention to be convicted.


Noting that it has given multiple examples at the Legislative Council Bills Committee meeting to illustrate what is meant by “reasonable excuse”, the Hong Kong SAR Government said the provisions on the proposed offence are clear and members of the public will not unwittingly violate the law.


It is incumbent upon The Times to ensure that reports concerning the Basic Law Article 23 legislation are fair and just, and stop making scaremongering remarks, it added.

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