Skip to main content

Smart Take | A Dark Day for Democracy in Hong Kong

March 22, 20242:07

Legislators in Hong Kong have passed a new security law which gives the government expansive powers to crack down on dissent. The Chinese government says the law, Article 23, is necessary for security, but critics say the law will only serve to curb free expression and civil liberties. Wilson Center Fellow Michael Davis explains the new law and its potential impact on media, academics, and NGOs. 

Michael Davis is the author of  Freedom Undone: The Assault on Liberal Values and Institutions in Hong Kong.

Video Transcript

  • This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

    It imposes the mainland version of state secrets on Hong Kong. It imposes a lot of restrictions on foreign interference and foreign organizations. The practical consequence of that is that the media will now be monitored carefully on whether it's digging into so-called state secrets, and that's the mainland term being used. So that's one area, the area of foreign exclusion and foreign interference. It's focused a lot on what NGOs might do or organizations. It even talks about people who make arguments under the guise of of a fighting for human rights or monitoring human rights. So this word, guys, is in the in the consultation about the document is kind of dismissing that kind of activity.  It speaks again in the consultation before presenting the document as so-called NGOs. So it's really expanding the target of the security agenda, very much in line with mainland China's version. 

    Well, what I think it does is it will give a kind of warning to people that they should avoid digging too much into what government's doing. Traditionally, Hong Kong had a very vigorous press and journalists would interview officials and then talk to academics and experts and try to dig in and predict what the government's trying to do and then have people talk critically about it. But now digging in might get you in trouble on state secrets front and talking to critically about it could be it could warrant targeting for sedition, which is one of the areas that's involved. 

    So for journalists, this is a problem for academics, it's also a problem, especially the parts on foreign organizations. They talk about foreign intelligence organizations, but it's not clear that these are just government organizations. The foreign organizations appear to be much wider. A lot of countries have national security laws and the in the Hong Kong government goes to great lengths to claim this, that everybody has it. Of course they do. But there's usually national security is concerned with what foreign governments or maybe terrorist organizations or something might do in your country. But this one is very broad in its sweep.


Michael C. Davis

Michael C. Davis

Global Fellow;
Professor of Law and International Affairs, Jindal Global University, Delhi, India
Read More

Hosted By

Indo-Pacific Program

The Indo-Pacific Program promotes policy debate and intellectual discussions on US interests in the Asia-Pacific as well as political, economic, security, and social issues relating to the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region.   Read more