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Hong Kong Passes a New Law on National Security, Article 23, and the Stress on the Art World Is Not Trivial

Legislators and chief executive posing after passing of the Article 23 bill. Photo: Sam Tsang; Credit: South China Morning Post

On March 19, Hong Kong passed a new national security law, Article 23. The law has been in effect since March 23. It introduces 39 new security offenses and

stipulates life sentences for sabotage, treason, and insurrection. Both supporters and opponents agree that the new law complements the Hong Kong national security law enacted by Beijing in 2020, and its impact will depend on its actual implementation.

Meanwhile, artists and curators interviewed by The Art Newspaper believe that the measures are something they have been anticipating since 2019 and that more artists will leave Hong Kong as censorship becomes increasingly intense. They also predict that nonprofit organizations will eventually suffer as funding organizations and individuals try to avoid even the slightest risk.

In contrast, Hong Kong’s art market seems to be unaffected. For example, Art Basel Hong Kong, which took place at the end of March this year, has regained its pre-pandemic scale despite political turmoil and economic difficulties. The fair received HK$15 million ($1.9 million) in support from the government’s Mega Arts and Cultural Events Fund, and an Art Basel spokesperson said the new national security laws would not pose a problem for the fair.

The new legislation and ongoing state censorship are widening the gap between the art market and nonprofit organizations. “Hong Kong is more a market than a place of artistic production,” “Hong Kong’s art world is moving forward towards the funding bodies’ interests like art tech, celebration, and spectacles for tourists,” an interviewee warned.

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