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Hong Kong already has a national security law. Now its leader is pushing for another one

Hong Kong CNN —

Hong Kong on Tuesday formally began the process of enacting a controversial homegrown national security law in a move that could have deep ramifications for the city’s status as a global financial hub.

The proposed legislation will cover offenses including treason, theft of state secrets, espionage and external interference, in what Hong Kong officials say will “fill loopholes” in a sweeping national security law imposed on the city by China’s central government in 2020 following mass pro-democracy protests.

Known as Article 23, Hong Kong’s own security legislation was shelved in 2003 after a previous attempt to enact it drew half a million residents onto the streets in protest over fears it would erode civil liberties.

But no such public opposition is expected this time around.

Beijing’s national security crackdown of recent years has transformed once-freewheeling Hong Kong, silencing almost all dissent and jailing dozens of political opponents. Many civil society groups have disbanded, and outspoken media outlets have shut down.

Hong Kong and Chinese authorities say the Beijing-imposed security law, which criminalizes succession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces in vague and broad terms, has restored order to the city following the 2019 protests and deny it has curtailed freedoms.

And on Tuesday, Hong Kong’s leader said it’s now time to enact the city’s own additional security laws “as soon as possible.”

“Why now? We can’t wait. We can’t afford to wait,” Chief Executive John Lee said in announcing a public consultation for Article 23, calling its enactment the city’s “constitutional duty.”

“It’s for 26 years we’ve been waiting; we shouldn’t wait any longer,” he said,