Statement on Article 23 bill rebuked

March 13, 2024

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today expressed strong condemnation of a statement by the organisation “Hong Kong Watch”, which it said is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public and smear the “disclosure of commission by others of offence of treason” requirement in the Basic Law Article 23 legislation.


The Hong Kong SAR Government said the anti-China organisation, together with 16 co-signatories of the statement, had attempted to provoke discontent among religious practitioners and followers against the legislation.


It highlighted that the offences of treason and misprision of treason have existed for a long time, whether in Hong Kong or in other common law jurisdictions, adding that the new legislation does not target religious practitioners or followers, and has nothing to do with freedom of religion.


It also stressed that freedom of religion does not protect anyone who has committed serious offences from legal sanctions.


In its condemnation, it said “Hong Kong Watch” had omitted to mention that Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights clearly stipulates that freedom of religion may be subject to limitations to protect public safety, order, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others. That article is based on Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The Hong Kong SAR Government has proposed to codify the offence of misprision of treason under the common law as a requirement for “disclosure of commission by others of offence of treason.”


However, it said “Hong Kong Watch” and the co-signatories of its statement had linked that requirement to freedom of religion in order to smear the legislative work, using religion as a pretext, in order to provoke repulsion among religious practitioners and followers against the Hong Kong SAR Government.


The Hong Kong SAR Government added that the statement even made demagogic and exaggerated remarks in an attempt to mislead the international community in believing that the Hong Kong SAR Government’s proposal runs contrary to the international standard, thereby creating a negative impression of the Basic Law Article 23 legislation.


It highlighted that treason is an extremely serious and rare offence endangering national security, and that it will only be committed in extreme conditions, such as waging war against China or instigating a foreign country to invade the country with force.


It added that it would be absolutely reasonable, necessary and justified to request that Chinese citizens who know about such acts or activities to disclose the commission of offences to law enforcement agencies, which can then take timely actions in accordance with the law to protect the life and property of the community.


The Hong Kong SAR Government said that misprision of treason remains a common law offence in the UK, while other countries with a common law system – including the US, Canada and Singapore – have codified the offence of misprision of treason. It added that these countries have not specified relevant exceptions.


It added that Hong Kong Watch and the co-signatories made no mention of the relevant provisions in these other countries in their groundless attack on the legislative work of safeguarding national security in Hong Kong.


It stressed that not only is “Hong Kong Watch” anti-China but that many of its members have repeatedly called for “sanctions” by foreign countries against officials of the central government and the Hong Kong SAR Government.


The people of Hong Kong, the religious sector and the international community should see the organisation’s true colours and not be misled by its erroneous remarks and ulterior motives, the Hong Kong SAR Government said.

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