Hong Kong proposes new security bill with life imprisonment for 'treason' and 'insurrection' 

The flag of Hong Kong flies from a ferry boat on July 2, 1997, a day after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule.

Romeo Gacad | AFP | Getty Images

Hong Kong on Friday unveiled a new draft security bill proposing up to life imprisonment for offences such as insurrection and treason following a month of public consultation period for the bill.

Crimes that will incur up to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment include treason, insurrection, the incitement of a member of Chinese armed forces to mutiny, as well as colluding with external forces to damage or weaken public infrastructure to endanger national security.

The draft Article 23 also proposed 20 years of prison sentence for espionage and 10 years for offences related to state secrets. 

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee on Thursday urged the need to pass the law “as soon as possible” amid an “increasingly complex” geopolitics backdrop.

According to a government statement, 98.6% of views showed support for the bill during the public consultation.

“The means taken to endanger national security can come in many different forms and the threat can emerge all of a sudden,” the statement read, adding that the sooner the legislative work is completed, the faster they can “guard against national security risks.”

The proposal will need to be scrutinized by lawmakers through several rounds of debate before it becomes law.

The draft legislation is necessary for Hong Kong to fulfil its constitutional duty to safeguard national security, China’s Ministry of National Security emphasized in its official WeChat account on Monday.

Beijing imposed a controversial law four years ago, which stamped out dissent and led to the arrest of many Hong Kong pro-democracy activists. China’s 2020 national security law aimed at prohibiting secession, subversion of state power, terrorism activities and foreign interference. 

The U.S. State Department in late February expressed concerns about Hong Kong’s Article 23, and how it could be used to “eliminate dissent through the fear of arrest and detention.”

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