Li Zhanshu (left), Chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, presides over the closing meeting of the 19th Session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee in Beijing on June 20 (XINHUA)
A draft law on safeguarding national security in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) recently reviewed by China's top legislature requires HKSAR to establish a commission of safeguarding national security. It also provides that the Central Government shall establish an office of safeguarding national security in HKSAR. Edited excerpts from Xinhua News Agency reports follow:
The draft law was submitted for deliberation at the 19th Session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) from June 18 to 20.
Entrusted by the Council of Chairpersons of the NPC Standing Committee, an official with the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee explained the draft law to the session.
With 66 articles, it has six chapters: the general principles; HKSAR's duties and institutions of safeguarding national security; crimes and penalties; jurisdiction over national security cases, application of laws and procedures; institutions of the Central People's Government in HKSAR for safeguarding national security; and supplementary provisions.
Establishing and improving at the national level the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for HKSAR to safeguard national security is a major measure to uphold and improve the system of "one country, two systems," said Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, at the closing meeting of the session.
It is also a fundamental solution to maintain long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and ensure the steady and sustained development of the cause of "one country, two systems," Li said.
The Central Government shoulders the fundamental responsibility for national security affairs related to HKSAR, while HKSAR bears the constitutional responsibility of safeguarding national security and shall fulfill its obligations, according to the draft.
The executive organs, legislature and judiciary of HKSAR shall, in accordance with relevant laws, effectively prevent, stop and punish acts and activities that endanger national security, says the draft.
Safeguarding China's sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity is the common obligation of all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots, it says.
Any institution, organization, or individual in HKSAR shall abide by this law and other HKSAR laws on safeguarding national security, and shall not engage in any activity that jeopardizes national security, the draft reads.
Any HKSAR resident standing for election or taking up any position of public office shall sign documents to confirm or swear to uphold the HKSAR Basic Law and pledge allegiance to HKSAR, it says.
HKSAR is required to step up efforts to safeguard national security and prevent terrorist activities.
In safeguarding national security, HKSAR shall uphold the principle of the rule of law, according to which HKSAR shall respect and protect human rights, and anyone shall be presumed innocent until convicted by the judicial organs, according to the draft law.
The draft requires HKSAR to establish a commission of safeguarding national security which shall be supervised by and accountable to the Central People's Government.
The HKSAR commission of safeguarding national security shall be chaired by the chief executive and establish the post of the national security adviser, who shall be appointed by the Central People's Government, it says.
The draft makes stipulations on what constitutes four categories of crimes that threaten national security and their corresponding penalties, including secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security.
Except in specific circumstances, HKSAR shall exercise jurisdiction over criminal cases stipulated in this law, the draft says.
The draft law provides that the Central Government shall establish an office of safeguarding national security in HKSAR.
The office is obligated to analyze and appraise national security situation in HKSAR, and provide comments and suggestions for major strategies and policies in this regard.
The office is required to supervise, guide, coordinate with and support HKSAR in performing its duties on safeguarding national security.
It shall also collect and analyze intelligence information concerning national security, and deal with criminal cases concerning national security in accordance with the law.
The office and related organs of the central authorities may exercise jurisdiction over a tiny number of criminal cases that jeopardize national security under specific circumstances, which is an important manifestation of the Central Government's overall jurisdiction over HKSAR, the official explained while briefing lawmakers.
The provisions of this law shall prevail when local laws of HKSAR are inconsistent with this law, the draft says, adding the power of interpretation of this law shall be vested in the NPC Standing Committee.
Response from Hong Kong
Leung Chun-ying, Vice Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said the legislation reflects the vitality of principles of "one country, two systems," "the people of Hong Kong administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy.
Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the NPC Standing Committee, said the draft law stipulates human rights protection to the greatest extent, takes into consideration the particularity of the common law, contains opinions of various sectors in Hong Kong and also demonstrates the central authorities' trust in Hong Kong's law enforcement forces.
He believes the legislation will restore stability in Hong Kong and ensure the smooth operation of "one country, two systems."
The contents of the draft law show that the central authorities are performing duties in accordance with law to plug loopholes in Hong Kong's legal system, which will help safeguard national security and the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, said Maria Tam Wai-chu, Deputy Director of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee under the NPC Standing Committee.
Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, Chair of the HKSAR Legislative Council's Panel on Administration of Justice and Legal Services, said the draft law stipulates that the relevant law enforcement, prosecution and other work will mainly be carried out by the HKSAR Government, which reflects the Central Government's trust in the HKSAR Government.
The draft law stresses that the rights and freedoms stipulated in the Basic Law and related international covenants will be protected, showing that the central authorities are committed to guaranteeing the human rights of Hong Kong residents, Leung noted.
She emphasized that the law targets only a tiny number of criminals endangering national security while the vast majority of Hong Kong residents are law-abiding and will not be affected.
Gu Minkang, former Deputy Dean of the School of Law of the City University of Hong Kong, said the draft law takes into account the characteristics of the common law and will not prejudice the existing judicial and common law systems in Hong Kong.
The common principles of the rule of law in the world are also reflected in the draft law, including no crime without the law, the presumption of innocence, protection against double jeopardy, protection of rights of defendants, and fair trial, he pointed out.
As stipulated in the draft law, the Central Government's office of safeguarding national security in Hong Kong will perform the duty of safeguarding national security and accept supervision in accordance with law, and will not harm the legitimate rights and interests of any individual or organization, Gu said.
Hong Kong lacks experience in dealing with cases endangering national security, so it is believed that the cooperation between the commission of safeguarding national security established by HKSAR and the Central Government's office of safeguarding national security in Hong Kong will ensure more effective enforcement of the law, Leung said.
According to the draft law, the HKSAR commission of safeguarding national security shall establish the post of national security adviser.
Tong Ka-wah, a member of the HKSAR Executive Council, said the adviser will provide significant materials and opinions on national defense and foreign affairs.
Tong also said that the HKSAR chief executive appointing judges to handle national security cases will not impact the existing legal systems in Hong Kong.
Fan Hsu Lai-tai, former President of the HKSAR Legislative Council, believes the legislation will effectively crack down on violence, bring back peaceful life to Hong Kong residents, and push the economy back on track.
(Printed Edition Title: Safeguarding Prosperity)
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