HONG KONG — The Legislative Council on Wednesday approved a widely criticized law that makes publishing false news in the British colony a criminal offense.
Under the law, due to be promulgated on Friday, publication of false news likely to disturb public order is punishable by a $12,800 fine and two years in jail.
It has drawn wide criticism in the colony, and journalists and publishers have charged that it threatens the freedom of the press. "I am more than a little disappointed," said legislator Martin Lee.
Hong Kong is preparing for its return to Chinese rule in 1997, and many critics have said they fear a post-1997 Hong Kong government answerable to Beijing could use the law as a weapon to quash dissent.
But the government has said it needs the law, which becomes part of a broader ordinance on public order, to prevent irresponsible reporting.