Justice chief says her department will retain power under national security law

Local | 6 Jun 2020 3:01 pm

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng says she and her department will retain the power to lay charges under Beijing's new national security legislation for the SAR, RTHK reports.

The National People's Congress approved draft legislation last month, while the NPC's Standing Committee is still to work on details of the law, but Cheng said the Basic Law made clear that the Department of Justice was responsible for deciding whether to charge a suspect.

The law is expected to criminalise acts or activities relating to secession, subversion or terrorism, as well as foreign interference in the SAR. It's also expected to pave the way for national security agents to operate in the SAR.

"Under the Basic Law Article 63, the Department of Justice is responsible for all criminal prosecution matters without any interference," she said.

"So therefore we will will make our decision in relation to whether or not to prosecute in accordance with the law, the evidence and the relevant prosecution code."

Asked how her department would cooperate with mainland security agencies, which are expected to be allowed to operate in Hong Kong under the new law, Cheng said it would base decisions on files from the "relevant law enforcement agency", which would "probably" be the police.

She also played down differences between Hong Kong's common law system and the civil law system under which mainland courts operate. She said both shared similar principles, including a presumption of innocence and putting the burden of proof on prosecutors.

Asked whether the national security law would apply retrospectively, she said there were limited circumstances in which it might do.

"Of course at the moment nobody has seen the draft legislation so it's not possible to say what is going to happen there," Cheng said. "But so far as retrospectivity is concerned, as a matter of principle, criminal charges are not to be laid retrospectively, therefore there ought not to be retrospective effect when the law is legislated.

"However there is always some exception, when the exception arises in relation to treaty and customary international law, but there are generally a very small amount of situations."

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