Open-source intelligence (OSINT)
🔻 IMPORTANT 【重要】國安豁免權
On the subject of the public consultation period for the legislation on Article 23 of the Basic Law, the response of the U.S. Department of State = U.S. Consulate General was pragmatic, cautious, and rational because the U.S. had made it clear that it would wait until the final version was available to make a formal response. In other words, the new round of sanctions will not be introduced during the public consultation and Legislative Council scrutiny period. Even the present public relations of the United States is in perfect agreement with the local media's speculation on the subject of Article 23. The United States has skillfully placed itself in a position consistent with that of the Hong Kong media, and it also shows that the Hong Kong media are in the hands of the United States. So, how will the legislative work and the final version be affected now?
As usual, pressure and lobbying are exerted through the Chamber of Commerce and its member businesses. Just as in the case of the amendment to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance, the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce has proactively castrated the Bill beforehand by striking out the clause on extradition on the basis of commercial crimes, thus making it a toothless tiger long ago. This time, on top of that, the Hong Kong media has been hyping the issue for days, especially on the bogus proposition of 'immunity for media leakage of state/official secrets'. They have even gone so far as to try to maximize their influence on the content of the final version of the legislation by bargaining with the bureaucrats in a question-and-answer session, in order to gradually remove barriers and restrictions. The latter tendency is particularly prominent.
▪️在本港，為公共利益揭密的重大事件都不是由港媒創作的，而媒體涉港揭密事件，僅有2010年維基解密揭發保安局長隱瞞本港2008年恐襲威脅一事和2013年英國媒體衛報的斯諾登事件而已。全港根本沒有人可以數一數有關類型的重大事件。甚至，最令人噴飯的是，當今媒體的功能是為權貴擴音擴聲，主要是廣告/宣傳/行銷工作（含造神活動），正像擴聲器一樣，而非傳統的調查傳媒工作（必定得罪金主/權貴/既得利益朋黨大聯盟）。因此，在公眾眼前，根本擺脫不了媒體究竟是做擴聲還是調查的基本疑問（Amplification or investigation?）。要留意的陷阱是，所謂批判也淪為了為特定權貴群組服務的宣傳活動的一環，而非純粹傳統的傳媒調查工作的性質。除了曾來沒有做過為公眾利益揭示官方機密的本港媒體要求所謂‘媒體洩露國家/官方機密要豁免權’是沒有立足之地的，甚至，2019年反修例風波的教訓是，大量社運人士假借記者/傳媒身分當擋箭牌，免罪符的記憶猶新，因此，據此，二十三條立法就不會貿然認可媒體記者身分本身的豁免權，結局輿論也不會特意反對這點。換言之，有關議題分為港媒要‘傳媒記者身分本身的國安豁免權’以及‘媒體洩露國家/官方機密要國安豁免權’兩大要求。
In Hong Kong, none of the major incidents on state secrets uncovered in the public interest are created by the Hong Kong media, and the only incidents involving governmental entities in Hong Kong are the WikiLeaks revelation in 2010 that the Secretary for Security had covered up the threat of a terrorist attack in Hong Kong in 2008, and the British media, the Guardian's report on the Snowden incident in 2013. No one in Hong Kong can even count the number of such major incidents. Even, the most outrageous thing is that the function of the media nowadays is to amplify the voices of the rich and powerful, mainly in advertising/publicity/marketing (including god-making activities), just like a sound amplifier, instead of the traditional investigative media (which is bound to offend the gold masters/powerful people/cronyism with vested interests). Therefore, the basic question of whether the media is an amplifier or an investigator (Amplification or investigation?) cannot be resolved before the public's eyes.
The pitfall to note is that the so-called critique has also been reduced to a part of propaganda activities serving specific groups of the rich and powerful, rather than the nature of a purely traditional media investigation. Apart from the fact that there is no place for the local media, which has never done anything to reveal official secrets for the public interest, to claim the so-called 'immunity for media leakage of state/official secrets', and even the lesson of the 2019 anti-amendment storm is that the memory of the large number of social activists who pretended to be reporters/media as a shield and an exonerating talisman is still fresh, therefore, according to this, the legislation of Article 23 will not hastily recognize the immunity of the identity of media reporters, and public opinion will not deliberately oppose this point in the end. In other words, the issue is divided into two major requirements, namely, the Hong Kong media should have 'national security immunity for media journalists' and 'national security immunity for media leakage of state/official secrets'.
The biggest blind spot is that, contrary to the general concept and preconceived notion, apart from the fact that WikiLeaks is a long-term partner of the major media, such as the New York Times, and that even the Guardian's exclusive coverage of the Snowden case was not a case of the pied piper suddenly leaking state secrets in front of the media (this is the wrong general image portrayed by Hong Kong media and the media in general), but rather, it is based on the customary mechanism of exempting the U.S. government from criminal proceedings with the mainstream media, and that the Guardian first asked and confirmed with the White House/NSA whether it could report on the state secrets (the result was that the White House/NSA did not reply within the time limit).
Rather, according to the usual mechanism between the US government and the mainstream media to avoid criminal proceedings, the Guardian first asked and confirmed with the White House/NSA whether it could report on state secrets (which was caused by the failure of the White House/NSA to reply to the Guardian within the time limit), and only then did it report. At present, the Hong Kong media has completely covered up the existence of this reporting practice in handling state secrets, and it is unreasonable to assume that the media enjoys immunity for leaking state secrets in the public interest. Therefore, if Article 23 legislation specifically provides for such immunity, it should establish at least the same mechanism as in the United States of America for the media and the government to handle state secrets reports. That is to say, the media should notify the government and confirm whether they can report on official/state secrets before doing so. This is reasonable from a different point of view. Why? For example, as a matter of practice, the media in Japan generally relies on leaks from the police and the Public Prosecutor's Office to report exclusively on the progress and results of criminal investigations. More clearly, in the case of the United States, deliberate official disclosure through specific media (e.g., the pro-U.S. government Washington Post) and specific journalists (e.g., Bob Woodward) is selective declassification, rather than the true state of disclosure set forth in the Article 23 legislation. This kind of cronyism, the reporting of official inside information, the exclusive reporting of classified (and indeed selectively declassified) content is the best safe harbor for the media and journalists to satisfy their business and personal ambitions. They clearly want to save room for this cake. It is reasonable to suggest, then, that there should be no immunity for journalists in matters of national security. If there is to be a privilege for 'immunity for media leaks of state/official secrets', then at least there should be a notification mechanism for media handling of state/official secret reports, as in the US. Incidentally, the absence of a so-called archives law is another important legislative issue on a par with Article 23 legislation.
🔻 NEWS / FACTs 【事實關係】
▪️ 講清講楚 - 《基本法》第23條立法再次啟動 經過22年，《基本法》第23條立法再次啟動，諮詢公眾至今估月28日，有甚麼值得留意呢？今集《講清講楚》，我們邀請到律政司司長林定國及保安局局長鄧炳強詳細傾談！
▪️ The draft bill is expected to be officially announced in March or April and passed by mid-year.
▪️ 特區政府一般有5大類檔案，最低級別的是公開的「普通文件」，為之General。上一級是「限閱／內部文件」：Restricted，再來是「機密」：Confidential，然後還有「高度機密」（Secret）和「絕對機密」（Top Secret）兩級。雖然政府聲稱有詳細的指引分類和管理這些檔案，但實際上監管的質素如何、有否抽查、怎樣確保所有部門遵從指引，沒有任意銷毀檔案，根本無從得知。吊詭的是，即使行政署旗下的「政府檔案處」，真的有審計部門管理檔案是否妥當，那份報告也可能屬於高度機密類別，公眾根本不得而知！更何況，政府檔案處根本無權查核任何政策局或部門，實際上如何管理檔案，是真真正正的一個「無牙力」的單位。除非香港有《檔案法》，否則任何官員要更改、洩漏、甚至毀滅政府的內部紀錄，基本上沒有法律責任要承擔，幾近可以無法無天。
🔻 COMMENT 【評語】
In a nutshell, apart from the fact that the archives' law is just as important as the legislation on Article 23, the media issue is divided into two major requirements for the Hong Kong media, namely, 'national security immunity for the media in their capacity as journalists' and 'national security immunity for the media in leaking state/official secrets'. It is reasonable to suggest that there should be no immunity for journalists in relation to national security issues. If there is to be a privilege for 'immunity for media leaks of state/official secrets', then there should be at least the same prior notification mechanism as in the United States for the media's handling of state/official secret reports.
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