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Hong Kong 9 December 2002

European Union asked to oppose "dangerous" national security law

Reporters Without Borders expressed great concern today about the future of press freedom in Hong Kong and called on the European Union (EU) to take a stand against a proposed national security law.

"This measure would endanger the freedom of journalists to report independently about Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Tibet," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "The EU must speak out against it at once," he said in letters to Danish foreign minister Stig Moller (whose country holds the EU presidency) and EU external relations commissioner Chris Patten (the last British governor of Hong Kong).

The Hong Kong government announced on 24 September that it would implement Article 23 of the local Basic Law, providing for heavy penalties, including prison, for treason, secession, sedition, subversion and theft of state secrets.

Many groups have denounced the measure as a threat to individual liberties, including press freedom. It defines state secrets very vaguely and could lead to the arrest of journalists for putting out news later described as state secrets, as has already happened in China, where journalist Wu Shishen was jailed for life in 1993 for sending a document to a Hong Kong colleague that was declared a "state secret."

Implementation of Article 23 could also encourage further self-censorship among Hong Kong journalists about subjects Beijing regards as sensitive. Anyone found guilty of publishing material inciting people to treason, secession or subversion could be jailed for up to seven years.

Since the September announcement, senior Hong Kong officials have warned journalists about how they use press freedom. Justice minister Elsie Leung said on 17 October that any confidential information published without giving the source would be considered a state secret.

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