Vice Premier Han Zheng (center) attends a deliberation of deputies from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region at the Third Session of the 13th National People's Congress in Beijing on May 24 (XINHUA)
At the closing meeting of the Third Session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), the top legislature of China, on May 28, deputies adopted a decision to make national security laws for Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR). The decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security was tabled on May 22 for deliberations. The aim is to ensure that the "one country, two systems" principle is not undermined.
The decision will entrust the Standing Committee of the NPC to formulate relevant laws at the state level. The proposed legislation, which targets acts endangering national security such as secession and subversion, will help create a social environment where law-abiding citizens can enjoy their rights to the full.
The SAR government is also expected to complete its national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the constitutional document for the SAR, at the earliest.
Need for security statute
The Basic Law, in keeping with the "one country, two systems" policy, has given Hong Kong legislative power to draft laws for preventing actions detrimental to national security.
Article 23 stipulates that Hong Kong shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central Government, or theft of state secrets; and to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the SAR. Political organizations or bodies in the SAR are also prohibited from establishing ties with foreign counterparts.
It is Hong Kong's constitutional responsibility to establish laws to implement Article 23 and ensure that residents carry out their civic duties. The local society of Hong Kong has a fundamental consensus on supporting the establishment of laws to implement Article 23. However, due to obstruction by the opposition, the making of such laws has been delayed till today.
Many of Hong Kong's current laws to deter the crime of harming national security, such as certain provisions in the Crime Ordinance, the Official Secrets Ordinance, the Society Ordinance and the Public Security Ordinance, are derived from regulations under British rule and have long been dormant. Because of the lack of legal support, there is no specialized agency under the SAR government to collect intelligence on national security and prevent external interference in Hong Kong's internal affairs.Hong Kong has become defenseless when it comes to guarding national security. It's probably no exaggeration to say that it has the worst legislation and enforcement mechanisms on safeguarding national security in the world. This is a major factor behind the increasingly rampant activities damaging national security.
It is urgent to establish laws and enforcement mechanisms for national security in the SAR, as required by the Constitution and the Basic Law. When national security is under serious threat and yet Hong Kong is unable to establish the required laws, it's necessary and urgent that they be established at the state level. This has to be done to consolidate national security in Hong Kong and deter hostile forces.
A resident signs in a street campaign to support national security legislation for Hong Kong in Hong Kong on May 23 (XINHUA)
The Basic Law stipulates that "Hong Kong SAR is an inalienable part of the People's Republic of China (PRC)." "One country, two systems" is the basic principle for governing Hong Kong SAR established in accordance with Article 31 of the Constitution of the PRC, which says, "The state may establish SARs when necessary."
However, since Hong Kong returned to the motherland on July 1, 1997, the opposition and external forces have schemed with each other to incite protests and violence. The former aims to seize the right to govern Hong Kong from the Central Government and the Hong Kong SAR Government while the latter attempts to create obstacles for China's development and subvert state power.
During last year's protests, rioters attacked the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in Hong Kong and defiled the national emblem, calling for "Hong Kong's independence." Some resorted to terrorism by hurling gasoline bombs and planting explosive devices.
Those that regard China with animosity enhanced interference in Hong Kong affairs amid the turmoil. The U.S. Government and senior Congress officials appeared from behind the scene on front stage to put pressure on the Central Government and the Hong Kong SAR Government and support the protesters. Last November the U.S. Senate passed the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. These moves have proved that the U.S. is the biggest supporter and manipulator of the Hong Kong turmoil.
Lai Chee-ying, founder of the Hong Kong-based newspaper Apple Daily, said the violence in Hong Kong was carried out in the interests of the U.S. He even said U.S. President Donald Trump is the only one who can save Hong Kong. Taiwan secessionists have also joined in to demonize "one country, two systems." They have passed on rioting experiences and provided funding and training to Hong Kong protesters.
At a time when the world is combating the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Hong Kong opposition camp has continued to incite local residents to participate in riots and even threatened to put bombs in public areas.
Such behavior has seriously harmed China's sovereignty and national security, and is intolerable to the Chinese Government and people.
It is necessary for China's top legislature to improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for Hong Kong to safeguard national security.
Foundations for prosperity
Since Hong Kong's return in 1997, the policies of "one country, two systems" and the "people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong" have been thoroughly implemented. There were voices disparaging the principle and claiming there would be no freedom or human rights after the return. However, the facts speak for themselves.
The SAR has remained open and diverse as an international metropolis the way it used to be. It has continued to enjoy top ranking in the world in terms of competitiveness and freedom due to its stable prosperity and key role in international finance, shipping and trade. Hong Kong people enjoy unprecedented democratic rights, and the level of democracy in the election of the region's chief executive and Legislative Council has been increasing.
The region has also faced many challenges. With the Central Government's support, the SAR government and all sectors of society have worked hard to overcome the difficulties. Hong Kong's progress since its return shows that "one country" is the foundation of "two systems" as well as a precondition for the region's prosperity. Attempts to shake this foundation would only leave Hong Kong in chaos.
Some are worried that the Central Government would interfere in the region's autonomy. The Central Government has a constitutional duty to protect national security. The SAR government is also obligated to enact a law on national security in accordance with Article 23 of the Basic Law. However, more than 20 years since Hong Kong returned to the motherland, the SAR government has failed to fulfill this obligation due to obstruction by the opposition camp.
Hong Kong residents have long complained about, and even been outraged by, acts endangering national security and sovereignty. It is their hope that the Central Government and the SAR government can take action. The decision matches public opinion in Hong Kong. The Central Government will not stand by in the case of attempts to subvert state power or interference by hostile external forces.
(Print Edition Title: A Necessary Task)
Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar
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