On Friday HKU law professor Cora Chan warned against legislation of Basic Law Article 23, saying it may become a “connecting door” to mainland China’s concepts of national security.
Chan also cast doubt on CE candidate Woo Kwok-hing’s proposal to legislate Basic Law Article 22—a law prohibiting mainland authorities from interfering with HK affairs—saying it cannot allay fears brought by Article 23.
“The worry is that Art. 23 legislation will become a connecting door to the mainland’s wide concept of national security,” Chan said. “They equate security of the state with the security of communist rule, or worse, the security of the rule of those currently in power.”
According to Chan, this would happen despite Art. 23 legislation being a local law, and would in theory be adjudicated by local courts only.
“Even putting my opponent’s case at its highest, assuming we have the perfect bill with all the human rights safeguards that we can ever dream of … the NPCSC could indirectly dictate the content of—or an understanding of—the local Art. 23 legislation through issuing an interpretation of Art. 23 itself,” she said.
Chan, along with fellow HKU law professor Scott Veitch, were speaking on freedom of expression at an Amnesty International Hong Kong event.
When asked about Woo’s proposal to legislate Art. 22, which states no department of the Central People’s Government can interfere with affairs which HK administers on its own, Chan said she was “not convinced” that it could curb mainland influence.
She said legislation would be difficult in the first place, since there are some legitimate grounds for mainland authorities to work with HK government, like crime prevention. But even if there were a specifically tailored law, the influence could occur “under the table” because secrecy is considered the norm in matters of national security, and the HK government can use that as justification for not disclosing any mainland influence to the public.
Chan argued that the major concern for Art. 23 legislation comes from the NPCSC’s power to interpret the Basic Law, which allows them to “peg anything they want” to the Basic Law under this pretext. Last November, when the NPCSC issued its 5th Basic Law interpretation, she criticized the move in an article which called for “hard legal controls” of NPCSC powers.
Both Chan and Veitch agreed that free expression in Hong Kong is under increasing threat, especially for issues like HK independence and self-determination.
“It seems that the Chinese and HK governments don’t even want us to talk about independence of HK. You talk about independence, or you ever advocate independence, [then] it seems you can’t stand for election,” she said, and also pointed to the Hong Kong National Party's recent difficulties.
Noting that some people find the idea of HK independence offensive, Chan said: “Freedom of expression is supposed to protect views that offend. Views that are popular do not need protection of freedom of expression.”
This event was also covered live on Twitter at @holmeschan_