At FORUM-ASIA, we employ a range of strategies to effectively achieve our goals and create a lasting impact.

Through a diverse array of approaches, FORUM-ASIA is dedicated to achieving our objectives and leaving a lasting imprint on human rights advocacy.

Who we work with

Our interventions are meticulously crafted and ready to enact tangible change, addressing pressing issues and empowering communities.

Each statements, letters, and publications are meticulously tailored, poised to transform challenges into opportunities, and to empower communities towards sustainable progress.

Multimedia Stories

With a firm commitment to turning ideas into action, FORUM-ASIA strives to create lasting change that leaves a positive legacy for future generations.

Explore our dedicated sub-sites to witness firsthand how FORUM-ASIA turns ideas into action, striving to create a legacy of lasting positive change for future generations.

Subscribe our monthly e-newsletter

[Press Release] Hong Kong: International community must come together in opposition to Article 23

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

(BANGKOK, Thailand, 3 May 2024)–Advocates came together to voice their concerns regarding Hong Kong’s new Safeguarding National Security Ordinance (SNSO), also known as ‘Article 23,’ urging the international community to consolidate efforts to publicly voice opposition against the passage of the new law and to convey their concerns to both the Chinese and Hong Kong Governments.

On 2 May 2024, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Asia Democracy Network, and Lady Liberty Hong Kong co-organised a webinar dissecting Article 23.

Triggering significant domestic and international alarm, Hong Kong legislators unanimously approved Article 23 on 19 March 2024 under the pretext of strengthening the ‘legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region  to safeguard national security.’ (READ: How Article 23 tramples on fundamental freedoms)

How Article 23 impacts press freedom

Among the webinar speakers was Aleksandra Bielakowska of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who has witnessed the downfall of Hong Kong’s press freedom over the past four years.

‘The impact on press freedom and information in the region following the introduction of the National Security Law (NSL) since 2020 is quite immense. Such a downfall has not been observable in any other country around the world,’  said Bielakowska.

‘Hong Kong ranks 135th out of 180 in RSF’s 2024 World Press Freedom Index, having plummeted down from 18th place in the span of two decades. So, the scale of the downfall of freedom is not comparable to any other places,’ Bielakowska continued.

‘The journalists have not only been harassed with NSL charges but also through other means. For example, RSF observed this with Ronson Chan, the chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) who was found guilty of allegedly obstructing a police officer while reporting in September 2022,’ Bielakowska added. In 2023, Chan was sentenced to five days in prison before being granted bail pending appeal.

‘I am not able to gauge the impact of Article 23 on journalists in the region as it has only been one month. However, there were many media outlets opened after the closure of Apple Daily and Stand News and I had the chance to meet with them and see the problems they were facing. They are still trying to carry out their work, which gives hope that everything’s not lost,’ said Bielakowska.

What can the international community do now

Meanwhile, Simon Henderson, an international human rights lawyer, stressed how the NSL has radically impacted Hong Kong’s political, societal, and legal systems. Such negative impacts were further exacerbated by the enactment of Article 23.

‘Several provisions of the SNSO breach Hong Kong’s international human rights law obligation under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,’ said Henderson, ‘This is also the view of United Nations Special Rapporteurs in their communication with the Hong Kong Government. It violates rights such as freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to a fair trial, freedom of movement, the right of privacy, the right to conduct and participation in public affairs supposedly protected under Hong Kong’s Bill of Rights.’

‘The credibility of Hong Kong’s legal system has drastically fallen and it should no longer be spoken about in the same company or held in the same esteem as its previously acknowledged peers, such as the UK, US and Australia. It is now used to systematically target civil society organisations and human rights defenders,’ Henderson explained.

In addition, Henderson suggested creating better engagements with international legal associations; expanding the space for engagement between civil society and UN human rights mechanisms; adding support for trial monitoring; urging increased coordinated engagement  from states such as UK, US, Canada and Australia whose are consistently cited by the Hong Kong government as models and justification for the SNSO including the use of targeted sanctions; and calling for the resignation of foreign judges who are non-permanent members of the Court of Final Appeal, as they have long since past their utility and their continued presence provides legitimacy for the ongoing repression of human rights defenders.


Journalists need support

Shibani Mahtani, an international investigative correspondent for Washington Post, emphasised how ‘conducting deep dive investigative journalism that pushes the boundaries and goes beyond mere news reportage in Hong Kong is extremely challenging today.’

‘The consequences are getting higher and higher. The reality of navigating the complex system and landscape–starting with the NSL, compounded with the introduction of Article 23–is very real for people in our profession,’ said Mahtani.

‘Several countries in Asia are not particularly warm and fuzzy towards journalists but even in this context, what makes Hong Kong particularly difficult is the lack of clarity regarding the red line around freedom of expression. Especially after the introduction of Article 23, nobody knows when the line will be crossed until it’s crossed,’ Mahtani continued.

Mahtani also noted how the process of applying for visas and permanent residences among journalists has become increasingly difficult. ‘All this leads to a sense of self-censorship in pursuing stories that push the boundaries of what the Hong Kong Government has set up,’ Mahtani explained, ‘Making stories about Hong Kong is becoming harder and harder. It is necessary to find people outside Hong Kong as there is a risk of putting the source in danger. Covering thematic issues on Hong Kong, such as land grabbing and environmental issues, has diminished following the introduction of both laws.’

‘The most tragic aspect of Article 23 is that it has made funding and donations for organisations very difficult. After the passage of the NSL in 2020, many organisations calibrated and adjusted themselves. However, with the introduction of Article 23, new layers of complexity, more restrictions, and increased difficulty will impede them from carrying out their work, said Mahtani.

Issuing statements is no longer enough, according to the speakers. Instead, there is an urgent need for coordinated action among democracies. Furthermore, they stressed the importance of documenting the impacts of Article 23 on people’s fundamental rights and freedoms. To do this, there is a need to support activists, independent media outlets, and journalists in and outside of Hong Kong who are courageously shedding light on what is really going on under Article 23.

About the organisers:

  • The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) is a Bangkok-based regional network of 85 member organisations across 23 Asian countries, with consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. FORUM-ASIA works to strengthen movements for human rights and sustainable development through research, advocacy, capacity-development and solidarity actions in Asia and beyond. It has sub-regional offices in Geneva, Jakarta, and Kathmandu.
  • The Asia Democracy Network (ADN) is a civil society led multi-stakeholder platform dedicated to bringing all aspects of society in Asia together to promote and defend democracy and human rights as a collective. ADN is a network of networks consisting of members that are regional networks that work on diverse themes under the umbrella of democracy. We have 11 network members and over 300 national members. As a network, we aim to promote democratic unity, solidarity, and cultivate the generation of advocates to sustain the democracy movement.
  • Lady Liberty Hong Kong (LLHK) is a non-profit organisation committed to advocating for human rights and democracy through the transformative power of art and media. Founded in Hong Kong in 2019 and now headquartered in Tokyo, LLHK leverages artistic expression and strategic media engagement to spotlight issues of freedom, democracy, and human rights in Hong Kong and across East Asia. LLHK’s approach includes international art exhibitions, public advocacy campaigns, media collaborations, and educational initiatives, all designed to cultivate a broader awareness of human rights issues and inspire action in support of democratic values worldwide.

For further information, please contact FORUM-ASIA’s East Asia and ASEAN Programme at [email protected]

For media inquiries, kindly contact: