Fixing Hong Kong's security bug
New laws will protect the "one country, two systems" principle
By Lan Xinzhen  ·  2020-06-12  ·   Source: NO.25 JUNE 18, 2020
A family poses at the award ceremony of a competition aimed at raising awareness of the Constitution and the Basic Law in Hong Kong on June 29, 2019 (XINHUA)

Thirty years after the promulgation of the Basic Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) and 23 years after Hong Kong's return to the motherland, one article in the Basic Law has yet to be implemented.

Article 23 of this constitutional document 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.

While the local society of Hong Kong supports making laws to carry out Article 23, the opposition has obstructed efforts to do so till today. As a result, Hong Kong has become defenseless when it comes to guarding national security. This is a major factor behind the increasingly rampant activities damaging national security that it faces.

Timely legislation

At an online seminar marking the 30th anniversary of the Basic Law on June 8, officials explained the importance of following through on the newly passed decision by the national legislature to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for Hong Kong to safeguard national security.

Zhang Xiaoming, deputy head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said the violence in Hong Kong last year not only undermined the social stability, economic prosperity and public security of the SAR but also challenged the "one country, two systems" principle used to govern Hong Kong and threatened national security. It was against this backdrop that the Central Government took action to formulate national security laws for Hong Kong at the state level.

Carrie Lam, Chief Executive of Hong Kong SAR, said the new laws and enforcement mechanisms would not impact Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy. They would target only an extremely small group of people engaging in criminal activities that seriously endanger national security. The vast majority, who are law-abiding residents, would be protected and Hong Kong would have safety and stability restored after the prolonged chaos and unrest.

She also said the SAR government would fully cooperate on the national security legislation for Hong Kong to ensure its long-term prosperity and stability.

According to Zhang, the more national security is consolidated, the greater space there will be for Hong Kong to leverage its advantages under the "one country, two systems" principle. The enactment of national security laws will see its social stability restored, its business and investment environment improved, and residents' rights better protected. If Hong Kong could have plugged on its own the security loopholes that have existed since its return to the motherland and combated the criminal unrest, there would have been no need for the Central Government to make the decision.

Representatives of the United Front Supporting National Security Legislation attend a press conference in Hong Kong on June 1. Some 2.93 million Hong Kong residents expressed their support during an eight-day petition campaign launched by the organization (XINHUA)

A cornerstone policy

Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping, who proposed the "one country, two systems" policy, foresaw the risks that could emerge in Hong Kong after its return. "There will be certain factors that might cause disturbances, disorder and instability. To be honest, these factors will not come from Beijing, but we cannot exclude the possibility that they exist inside Hong Kong or that they will come from certain international forces," Deng said on October 3, 1984, when meeting representatives from Hong Kong and Macao. "If there are disturbances in Hong Kong, the Central Government will intervene."

President Xi Jinping has also reiterated the Central Government's commitment to defending national security. "Any attempt to endanger China's sovereignty and security, challenge the power of the Central Government and the authority of the Basic Law of Hong Kong SAR or use Hong Kong to carry out infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland is an act that crosses the red line, and is absolutely impermissible," Xi said at a meeting marking Hong Kong's 20th return anniversary in 2017.

With some calling the upcoming security laws a violation of Hong Kong's autonomy, the role of the Basic Law in Hong Kong should be reviewed. As a constitutional law for the SAR, it must be observed by all Hong Kong residents. "One country" in the principle of "one country, two systems" enshrined in the law refers to the People's Republic of China. "Two systems" means while the mainland follows a socialist system, Hong Kong continues its capitalist system.

Since Hong Kong's return in 1997, the people of Hong Kong have been governing the region with a high degree of autonomy under the "one country, two systems" policy. 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 residents 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. But with the Central Government's support, the SAR government and Hong Kong's society have overcome them. 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.

However, the opposition and external forces have conspired together to incite protests and violence. 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 independence." There were acts of terrorism, including hurling gasoline bombs and planting explosives. Amid the turmoil, hostile external forces stepped up their interference in Hong Kong affairs.

As Zhang said, there are three basic legal grounds for the Central Government's decision. First, affairs concerning national security are under the unified administration of the Central Government. Second, it is the Central Government's responsibility to adopt legislation to safeguard national security. Third, any country will take all measures available to combat crimes that endanger its national security.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the national legislature, will complete the legislation for Hong Kong in accordance with legal procedures and ensure its implementation. In a sense, it would be like, to quote Zhang, installing an "anti-virus software" for the implementation of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong.

Copyedited by Sudeshna Sarkar

Comments to lanxinzhen@bjreview.com

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