HONG KONG, Jan. 30 (Reuters) - Hong Kong's leader confirmed on Tuesday his intention to pass tighter national security laws soon to build on sweeping legislation Beijing imposed on the city in 2020, saying the city "could not afford to wait" .

Some business people, diplomats and academics are watching developments closely, saying the prospect of new laws targeting espionage, state secrets and foreign influence, known as Article 23, could have a deep impact on the global financial hub.

Chief Executive John Lee said the government will attempt to pass the laws "as soon as possible" but did not give a precise timetable for them to be approved by the city's legislature.

"Why now? We can't wait. I've said it very clearly. We can't afford to wait. It's for 26 years we've been waiting. We shouldn't wait any longer," Lee said, describing it as the city's constitutional responsibility dating back to its 1997 handover to China from British colonial rule.

"While we, society as a whole, looks calm and looks very safe, we still have to watch out for potential sabotage, undercurrents that try to create troubles," he said, saying some foreign agents could still be active in Hong Kong.

Lee said freedoms would be safeguarded and the laws would meet international standards.
A 110-page consultation document would be submitted to the Legislative Council on Tuesday afternoon, and the consultation would end on February 28.

The document outlines the need for new and updated laws covering the theft of state secrets, espionage, treason, sedition and sabotage, including the use of computers and electronic systems to conduct actions endangering national security.

Tighter control of foreign political organisations linked to the city is also advocated.
The consultation document warns that Hong Kong is under increasing threat from foreign espionage and intelligence operations, and cites the months of pro-democracy protests that rocked the city in 2019.

China and Hong Kong are "unavoidably subject to acts and activities endangering national security conducted by the

agents or spies of external forces (including external political

organisations or intelligence agencies)" in the city, it notes.

It defines a list of state secrets in Hong Kong, including economic, scientific and social secrets but says to be classed as such they would have to endanger national security if released.

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