Tough talk on security legislation from Beijing's top man in HK

Top News | Riley Chan 16 Apr 2018

Hong Kong is the only place in the world without national security legislation, Beijing's top official in Hong Kong said yesterday.

Addressing the first National Security Education Day symposium in Hong Kong, Liaison Office Director Wang Zhimin said national security was part of daily life like air and water. But Hong Kong has yet to enact a national security law, highlighting the incomprehensiveness of the system.

"Where the protection is weak, problems easily arise," Wang said. "Hong Kong people also have the responsibility to safeguard national security and maintain the one country, two systems."

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress passed the National Security Law on July 1, 2015, and marked April 15 as National Security Education Day.

The law does not apply in Hong Kong.

But Hong Kong Policy Research Institute, a think tank led by former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, held a symposium in the SAR yesterday in a move seen by some as a step toward pushing Hong Kong to legislate on the long-awaited Basic Law Article 23.

Speaking at the symposium, Wang hit out at advocates of Hong Kong independence, saying they have been unscrupulously using different means to challenge the country's sovereignty.

Without naming Hong Kong University associate professor of law Benny Tai Yiu-ting, Wang said not only did some people push for independence in Hong Kong, but even went to Taiwan and foreign countries to spread the message.

"This went way beyond freedom of speech and academic freedom," he said. "We should all take a zero-tolerance approach to these kind of activities."

Wang was referring to Tai's controversial independence remark at a conference in Taiwan last month, in which he said Hong Kong could consider independence after democratization of China. His comment sparked waves of condemnation, including an rare statement from the SAR government.

"These people even brought the ridiculous remarks into campus, poisoning our future generations," Wang said.

In response, Tai said Wang was seizing on the incident to put pressure on Hong Kong to enact Basic Law Article 23.

He agreed that national security should be safeguarded. But it should also meet the constitutional principle of one country, two systems and high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong.

"Speeches, normal exchanges between organizations, and winning a seat at the Legco from elections are all protected by existing laws in Hong Kong, and none of these should be banned by the future legislation of Article 23," he said.

Legislative Affairs Commission vice-chairwoman Zheng Shuna reminded Hong Kong of its constitutional responsibility to enact Article 23.

The responsibility to safeguard national security should not be limited to the legislation of Article 23, but also to matters such as internet security and counter-terrorism, she said.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said more education was needed to raise the awareness of national security among Hong Kong people.

But speaking after the event, Tsang gave Lam a little pressure by saying Hong Kong should take a proactive approach. "It doesn't work if the government does nothing and expects a suitable social climate to come," he said.

Tsang also reminded the government to be cautious when starting the legislation again to avoid "repeating its mistakes" - hinting at the massive demonstration in 2003.

Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu reinforced the government's determination to enact the law, promising he would not walk away from the necessary responsibility.

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