At a forum at City University yesterday on Article 23, among various utterances, the secretary for security, Regina Ip, said: "Don't believe democracy will be a panacea. Adolf Hitler was returned by universal suffrage and he killed seven million Jews".


The chief executive needs to refute this statement making it clear that it does not represent the government's view otherwise the government itself will be discredited.


This e-Newsletter looks at the Article 23 debate so far. This issue is the first in a series to examine the Article 23 debate, which is arguably Hong Kong's best challenge post-1997.


A. Article 23 - quick summary


1. Article 23 of the Basic Law requires Hong Kong to enact laws "on its own" to prohibit 7 types of acts:

(a) Treason

(b) Secession

(c) Subversion

(d) Sedition

(e) Theft of state secrets

(f)  Foreign political organizations from conducting political activates in HK

(g) Local political organizations from establish ties with foreign political bodies


2. There are existing laws covering all these areas. Although Hong Kong has no offence called "secession" and "subversion", the kind of acts involved are arguably covered by existing laws against "treason".

3. The HKSAR Government's consultation paper published last month (consultation period ends 24/12/02) proposes to

further legislate in these areas.


4. The debate in Hong Kong centers around the following issues:

(a) how the government proposes to enlarge the scope of the law in these areas?

(b) why increase the powers of the Police and the government?

(c) whether rights and freedoms are being compromised?

(d) are the powers of the court being weakened?

(e) why not publish a "White Bill" for consultation?


NB - a white bill is the full draft legislation. What the government has published so far is a paper explaining how it proposes to further legislate. The benefit of a white bill is so that people can assess the exact scope of the law.


B. Where public debate stands


1. Government's interpretation of public sentiments: Ip's meeting at City University yesterday provides insight into how the government chooses to see the debate so far. Ip claimed that: "Of the response received to far, the majority of people support it (further legislation)". This statement came a week after Chinese vice-premier, Qian Qichen said only a minority of people opposed further legislation. Earlier in the month, chief executive CH Tung said there was support "from all walks of life".


2. Twisting words?: Media reports indicate what people are saying is that they do not oppose clarifying/reforming/modernizing existing law to protect national security. That is very far from saying they support further legislation that expands the scope of the law in the manner that the government has proposed.


3. Possible consequences of further legislation: There seems to be a growing realization that the new offences could inhibit speech and action of quite a lot of people. Lawyers have already pointed out many pitfalls. University librarians are asking for libraries to be exempted since allegations could be made that they contain seditious materials. Academics are worried for obvious reasons. Even foreign residents are now beginning to show concerns since they could be caught by the law if they are seen to be supporting their own governments in national security issues involving China.


NB: Future Newsletters will go into these areas in detail.


C. Hitler and democracy - analysis


1. Ip's choice to use Hitler to illustrate the failures of democracy is extremely unfortunately for her, for the government, and for Hong Kong as a whole. It shows Ip's ignorance. It also shows the government in extremely poor light. The chief executive should immediate refute her gaff as representing the government's view - which he has yet to do. If this statement is not strongly refuted by the government, it will only lose more credibility.


2. Ministers and officials need to be very careful to get the facts right. What Ip said indicates that there is much ignorance at the most senior ranks of government about world history. It also shows that there is a visceral negativity about democracy. It therefore leads observers to conclude that democratic reform in Hong Kong is hopeless as long as such people are in power. Indeed, when mixed with the explosive discussion on Article 23, the government should not be surprised that it will become even less popular since it is seen as putting in place a pervasive and intrusive national security regime.


3. Just to get the facts straight, the following is an exert about Hitler from an Internet library:


Although Adolf Hitler had the support of certain sections of the German population he never gained an elected majority. The best the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) could do in an election was 37.3 per cent of the vote they gained in July 1932. When Hitler became chancellor in January 1933, the Nazis only had a third of the seats in the Reichstag.

Soon after Adolf Hitler became chancellor he announced new elections. Hermann Goering called a meeting of important industrialists where he told them that the 1933 General Election could be the last in Germany for a very long time. Goering added that the NSDAP would need a considerable amount of money to ensure victory. Those present responded by donating 3 million Reichmarks. As Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary after the meeting: "Radio and press are at our disposal. Even money is not lacking this time."

Behind the scenes Goering, who was minister of the interior in Hitler's government, was busily sacking senior police officers and replacing them with Nazi supporters. These men were later to become known as the Gestapo. Goering also recruited 50,000 members of the Sturm Abteilung (SA) to work as police auxiliaries.

Hermann Goering then raided the headquarters of the Communist Party (KPD) in Berlin and claimed that he had uncovered a plot to overthrow the government. Leaders of the KPD were arrested but no evidence was ever produced to support Goering's accusations. He also announced he had discovered a communist plot to poison German milk supplies.

Just before the election was due to take place someone set fire to the Reichstag. A young man from the Netherlands, Marianus van der Lubbe, was arrested and eventually executed for the crime. As a teenager Lubbe had been a communist and Goering used this information to claim that the Reichstag Fire was part of a KPD plot to overthrow the government.

Hitler gave orders that all leaders of the German Communist Party should "be hanged that very night." Paul von Hindenburg vetoed this decision but did agree that Hitler should take "dictatorial powers". KPD candidates in the election were arrested and Hermann Goering announced that the Nazi Party planned "to exterminate" German communists.

Thousands of members of the Social Democrat Party and Communist Party were arrested and sent to recently opened to concentration camp. They were called this because they "concentrated" the enemy into a restricted area. Hitler named these camps after those used by the British during the Boer War.

Left-wing election meetings were broken up by the Sturm Abteilung (SA) and several candidates were murdered. Newspapers that supported these political parties were closed down during the 1933 General Election.

Although it was extremely difficult for the opposition parties to campaign properly, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party still failed to win an overall victory in the election on 5th March, 1933. The NSDAP received 43.9% of the vote and only 288 seats out of the available 647. The increase in the Nazi vote had mainly come from the Catholic rural areas who feared the possibility of an atheistic Communist government.

Political Parties in the Reichstag








Communist Party (KPD)








Social Democratic Party (SDP)








Catholic Centre Party (BVP)








Nationalist Party (DNVP)








Nazi Party (NSDAP)








Other Parties