Following a massive protest by 500,000 people on July 1, Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa agreed to delay implementing Article 23, a controversial antisedition bill. Christians were critical of the bill and organized rallies against the measure. One Christian-organized demonstration on July 13 drew an estimated 15,000 people.

Religious liberty advocates have blasted a provision that would automatically ban groups in Hong Kong currently outlawed on the mainland. These groups include unofficial house churches, Roman Catholic entities, and the controversial Falun Gong sect.

Christians, who constitute about 10 percent of the autonomous region's 6.9 million people, have links to unofficial house churches on the mainland and to many foreign groups. They fear such ties could make them criminals under Article 23. Roman Catholic Bishop Joseph Zen is a leading Christian critic of the bill, calling it "very dangerous."

"I surely do not expect persecution of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong tomorrow or in two years' time," he said. "But it becomes possible."

After the protests, Tung removed or weakened three controversial provisions in Article 23: police searches without a warrant, bans of groups already outlawed on the mainland, and penalties for "theft of state secrets." Then on July 23 Hong Kong's government said it would resume public consultation on the bill this month.

Related Elsewhere

Christianity Today previously covered Article 23 in:

Under Suspicion | Hong Kong's Christians fear antisedition measures will curb religious liberty. (Feb. 21, 2003)

Recent coverage includes:

HK to conduct another consultation on Article 23 legislation work next monthPeople's Daily (August 19, 2003)
China may use law to hinder Taiwan agencies—Taipei ...
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