'Govt will clarify certain Article 23 provisions' - RTHK
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'Govt will clarify certain Article 23 provisions'

2024-02-27 HKT 21:58
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  • Paul Lam says society agrees that there's a need to enact Article 23 as soon as possible. Photo: RTHK
    Paul Lam says society agrees that there's a need to enact Article 23 as soon as possible. Photo: RTHK
Justice Secretary Paul Lam said the government will clarify certain legal provisions under the proposed Basic Law Article 23, such as those in relation to colluding with external forces, as the subcommittee on Article 23 legislation convened its first meeting in the Legislative Council on Tuesday.

Speaking to lawmakers at the panel meeting, Lam said society has reached a general consensus to enact Article 23 as soon as possible to fulfil Hong Kong’s constitutional duty.

“For specific terms, in relation to national security, collusion with external forces, there will be clear definitions. Also, for common phrases that won’t have detailed definitions, there will be detailed provisions providing for under which circumstances an offence will be established,” he said.

Lam added that authorities will set a maximum penalty instead of a minimum one, in line with arrangements under the common law system.

In its consultation paper, the government points to legislation in the UK that empowers the police to ban suspects from consulting certain lawyers. Lawmaker Peter Koon pointed out that the proposed rule may concern some people.

“I agree that certain lawyers should be barred from being allowed to be the person that a detainee can consult. But are we talking about a blanket ban even [on] lawyers assigned or deployed to help the detained persons?” Koon asked.

In response, Lam said officials won't unreasonably deny the legal rights of a suspect, but pointed out that consulting a lawyer during detention may increase the risks of national security.

Regina Ip from the New People’s Party, for her part, said journalists are worried that they may breach the law inadvertently by publishing news reports that involve state secrets.

But Lam noted that the legislation won’t affect normal journalistic activities.

“I want to stress that in our legislative exercise, if you undertake normal work in the press industry, you should not worry. Normal practitioners in the journalistic industry should not breach the law,” the justice chief said.

Martin Liao was elected chairman of the subcommittee while Gary Chan is the vice chairman.

The public consultation exercise runs until Wednesday.

'Govt will clarify certain Article 23 provisions'