Published: 19:12, February 29, 2024 | Updated: 19:27, February 29, 2024
HK Bar Association backs Article 23 legislation, calls for clarity
By Oasis Hu

Chairman of Hong Kong Bar Association Victor Dawes speaks to members of media at press conference regarding the legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law at the High Court in Admiralty on Feb 29, 2024. (ANDY CHONG / CHINA DAILY)

Hong Kong’s barristers’ group on Thursday voiced support for the city’s legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law, calling on the special administrative region’s government to ensure clarity in definitions and elements of offenses in the hope of preventing unintentional violations of the law by the public.

Victor Dawes, chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, a professional organization for all 1,600 barristers in Hong Kong, said this after the organization had submitted its opinions regarding the local legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law to the government.

The association agrees that the city should fulfill its constitutional duty to enact national security legislation in accordance with Article 23, Dawes said

Article 23 requires Hong Kong to enact its own laws to prohibit seven categories of national security offenses, such as treason, secession, and theft of state secrets. On Jan 30, the government initiated a monthlong public consultation on the proposed legislation, which concluded on Wednesday after collecting public views.

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The government on Thursday said 512 groups from various sectors and professions supported the legislation by making open statements, issuing co-signed letters and publishing articles by Tuesday. 

Over 30 public consultation sessions were held during that time, with over 3,000 people from different backgrounds attending. The Security Bureau said most attendees were supportive of the legislation.

The association agrees that the city should fulfill its constitutional duty to enact national security legislation in accordance with Article 23, so that it can help prohibit offenses that are widely recognized as posing a substantial threat to national security, Dawes said.

It is crucial to ensure clarity in new concepts, the definitions and elements of offenses, and standards of conviction in the legislative process of Article 23 of the Basic Law, which can help prevent unintentional violations of the law by the public and also safeguard the long-term interests of the city, Dawes said.

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Balancing enforcement powers and the protection of rights can help preserve Hong Kong’s international financial center status, increase global confidence in its rule of law, and safeguard the long-term interests of the nation and the city, Dawes said.