Keywords and ‘made-simple’ Summary of the National Security
Government backed down after legislators and members of the public criticised the removal of the time limits for prosecution of handling seditious publications 處理煽動性刊物.
The government first proposed that the time limits for prosecution of handling seditious publications, now in six months, should be dropped in the national security bill. That means a person may be prosecuted even after 10 or 20 years of his act. Officials claimed they would need time to collect evidence for such a serious crime.
But after fierce criticism, the government decided to put a 3-year time limit for the prosecution. That means no prosecution for such an offence shall be commenced after 3 years from the date of commission of the offence.
But there are still calls for a shortening of the time limit as some believe three years will still be too long and may threaten freedom of expression. The opponents include academics, journalists and librarians who fear they would become victims because they might have chances of handling publications deemed as “seditious” by the government.
In the bill, seditious publication is defined as a publication that is “likely to cause” the commission of an offence of treason, subversion or secession.
A person who publishes, sells, offers for sale, distributes or displays any seditious publication with intent to incite others to commit offences of treason, subversion or secession is liable to a fine of $500,000 and jail of 7 years.
To address their concerns, another section will be added to the proposed law to provide that it is an offence of dealing with seditious publications only when the accused has an intention to incite others, by means of the publication, to commit the offence of treason, subversion or secession.
Another topic, Unlawful Disclosure 非法披露, is also controversial and has filled journalists with alarm. We will discuss it next time.
Note: Credit is due to the Hon Bernard Chan for sharing these information with me.