Article 23 proposal delayed by pandemic: Chris Tang

Security Secretary Chris Tang on Thursday said the current coronavirus outbreak has delayed plans to introduce national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.

Many civil servants have spent the past few months working from home and Tang told legislators during a virtual meeting that the government’s Article 23 proposal will be put to Legco in June, rather than May as originally planned.

“We have planned to begin consultation before the term of the current administration ends and table the bill to Legco for scrutiny before the end of the year. But because of the epidemic, we are assessing the impact to the relevant work,” he said.

Separately, prison officials told lawmakers that about 250 inmates had taken part in a voluntary rehabilitation programme for “deradicialisation”. Officials said since the social unrest of 2019, a large number of people deemed as radical lawbreakers have been remanded or convicted of serious offences.

Planning sector legislator Tony Tse asked officials how they are going to encourage more prisoners to take part in the scheme, which involves understanding Chinese history, national education and life planning, among other things.

The Commissioner of Correctional Services, Wong Kwok-hing, said his colleagues have been using various ways to encourage inmates to join the rehab programme.

He cited the example of a teenager who was convicted of protest-related offences and faced expulsion from university. “After attending the rehab programme, he has changed his criminal mindset and rebuilt the right values. We also helped him to resume study at the university and mend fences with his family,” Wong said.

The commissioner said some young inmates were willing to take part in the programme after hearing about the teenager’s experience and he called on the community to give such prisoners a chance.