Lawmaker Regina Ip addresses international response to Article 23 consultation document

Regina Ip

16th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) As Hong Kong’s government advances its Article 23 national security legislation, Regina Ip-Lau, convener of the Executive Council, has noted the absence of international outcry or denunciation concerning the recent consultation document. Speaking on the matter, Ip suggests the lack of immediate foreign commentary may stem from a thorough review process that is currently underway.

The consultation document, which outlines the proposed framework for the legislation, seems to be receiving a cautious yet studious observation from abroad. Ip anticipates that comprehensive assessments of the specified terms and clauses will likely occur once the document proceeds to the legislative phase, at which point detailed feedback may emerge.

Ip further posited that international silence could partly be attributed to the document’s references to existing national security laws in Singapore and those enacted by the Five Eyes alliance countries, indicating a level of parity with established global standards.

During a radio interview, the New People’s Party chairwoman expressed confidence that the domestic law would be enacted before the adjournment of the Legislative Council. She also mentioned the government’s intent to expedite the legislation prior to the US Presidential Election in November, aiming to preclude the topic from becoming fodder for potential “newsjacking” – where current events are exploited to influence media coverage.

Addressing the content of the legislation, Ip clarified that the threshold for the offence related to the theft of state secrets is notably stringent, necessitating that the leaked information must be of a nature that could jeopardise national security. She reassured that inadvertent disclosures, such as the premature release of fiscal deficits or poverty thresholds, would not be construed as national security threats under the proposed law.

In response to the apprehensions voiced by foreign businesses, fearing that Hong Kong might lose its unique status and blend into the broader Chinese framework, Ip cited an incident wherein an international law firm restricted its Hong Kong staff from accessing a global database. She deemed such measures unnecessary and reassured that the draft does not criminalize the transfer of data within Hong Kong to the mainland. Ip stressed the continuity of a ‘firewall’ that has historically segregated data flows between the two jurisdictions.

Despite the measures in place, Ip acknowledges the need for ongoing dialogue with the international business community to clarify the intentions and implications of the legislation. The government appears committed to maintaining Hong Kong’s status as a global financial hub, while ensuring that national security considerations are met.