Carrie Lam dismisses national security law concernsLocal | 23 May 2020 12:11 pm
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has downplayed concerns over Hong Kong's freedom following Beijing's proposal to pass and enact the tailor-made national security law into the SAR through the National People's Congress.
Speaking hours after Hong Kong stocks plummeted yesterday, Lam sought to assure residents that the legislation presented to the country's top legislative body would protect the city's high degree of autonomy.
“Hong Kong is a free society. Hong Kong will remain to be a very free society, where freedom of expression, freedom of protest, freedom of journalism will stay because these are the core values of Hong Kong and are very much protected by the Basic Law," she said.
Lam added the law would not undermine the SAR's governing principle of “one country, two systems” and that the cherished principle of “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” would remain.
“It will also provide the best system to ensure prosperity and stability in Hong Kong. It won’t affect the capitalist system and the rule of law in Hong Kong. It won’t affect foreign investors’ interests that are legally protected in Hong Kong,” said Lam, who added the social unrest had posed a risk of “terrorism” to the city and “seriously jeopardized public safety.
Lam met the press with her full cabinet last night against a banner that read “Full Support for establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR to safeguard national security”.
According to the law's seven-point resolution listed out by Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, Hong Kong would have to establish institutions to improve its legal system and safeguard national security.
The law – which would be listed in Annex III of the Basic Law and implemented without going through Hong Kong's Legislative Council – also states that relevant national security organs of the central government would set up agencies in the SAR to protect national security when needed, as Wang explained at the opening of the NPC session yesterday.
The law would prevent, stop and punch any act of “secession”, “subversion”, “foreign interference” and “organization of terrorist acts” in the city.
“The extradition bill saga in Hong Kong has sparked off advocates of Hong Kong's independence, such acts threatened national sovereignty... and we must take strong measures to prevent, stop and punish,” said Wang, who spoke after Premier Li Keqiang delivered his working report at the third annual session of the 13th NPC in Beijing.
Li stressed the importance of establishing sound legal systems and enforced mechanisms for safeguarding national security, saying the central government had full support to Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR.
But Lam said the national security law would not replace or repeal Article 23, a law her administration had failed to enact given opposition politician's attempt to paralyze the legislature and anti-government protesters' “mutual destruction” philosophy.
Under Article 23 of the city's mini-constitution, the SAR government shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People's Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the HKSAR, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the HKSAR from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.
In the wake of Beijing's announcement, the local stock market recorded its largest percentage-drop since 2015 yesterday, with the Hang Seng Index falling by 5.56 percent or 1,349.89 points as investors' concerns over the city's prospect and tensions with Washington.
However, Lam said that Friday's stock market dive was part of the usual “ups and downs”, stressing that the law would ensure a stable business environment in Hong Kong.
The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong warned that the introduction of national security laws could jeopardize business prospects in the city and worsen the risks it faced being caught in the trade war between Washington and Beijing.
"You have quoted the public response by one of the chambers," Lam said. "But I have also read press statements issued by some of the Hong Kong local chambers... anything safeguarding national security, that will help stabilize the environment, is also very good for local investment sentiment,” Lam said.
She also reiterated that her administration would fully cooperate with the NPC Standing Committee to complete the legislation as soon as possible.
The debate for the legislation is scheduled for the coming Tuesday and Thursday at the NPC, with a vote. The resolution is likely to be adopted and forwarded to the standing committee to advance the implementation.