The grey areas

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 16 October, 2002, 12:00am

Uncertainties in the consultation paper on Article 23 raised by lawyers include:

Proscribing an organisation in the interests of national security: Which definition of 'national security' will be used to decide whether a group should be banned? The consultation paper uses only the broad meaning 'safeguarding of the territorial integrity and independence of the state'. [See consultation paper paragraph 7.15]. To what extent will Hong Kong's courts be able to intervene? [7.18]

Treason: Laws are proposed against 'attempting, conspiring, aiding and abetting, counselling and procuring treason offences'. How will these be defined? [2.13]

Subversion: May be committed by using 'serious unlawful means' to 'intimidate the central government'. What is the precise meaning of these words? What will be their scope? [5.5]

Secession: Could be a crime to 'resist the Central People's Government in its exercise of sovereignty over a part of China' by 'serious unlawful means'. What will be covered by these words? Many actions taken by the central government are regarded as an exercise of sovereignty. [3.6]

One of the categories of 'serious unlawful means' is 'serious interference or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system'. This appears wide in scope, how will it be defined? [3.7]

Sedition: Possessing seditious material would be a crime if the person concerned knew or had reasonable grounds to suspect it would be 'likely to incite others' to commit treason, secession or subversion. How narrowly will this be defined? [paragraph 4.17]

Theft of state secrets: What will be the scope of the new category of protected information, that which is 'relating to relations between the central authorities of the PRC and the HKSAR?' [paragraph 6.19]

How will the new offence of disclosing protected information that was 'obtained (directly or indirectly) by unauthorised access to it' be defined? [6.22]

The consultation paper is available on the Security Bureau Web site at