Don't test the law by chanting protest slogan, Teresa Cheng saysLocal | 4 Jul 2020 1:06 pm
The Secretary for Justice, Teresa Cheng, warned people not to test the law by continuing to chant the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times”, adding that those who use the phrase would be permanently barred from standing in elections.
Cheng's remarks came after the official statement issued on Thursday, a day after the sweeping national security law took effect, saying the slogan – used frequently in previous anti-government rallies – connotes Hong Kong independence, altering the legal status of the SAR or subverting state power.
Speaking on a radio program, Cheng denied that the government had given a new interpretation to the slogan after the law was enacted, saying the authorities had always taken such a view.
But she conceded the government statement does not have legal binding.
“It will ultimately be a matter for the court to decide whether the overall acts – not just the words, but also the acts of the defendant – amount to an offense under the relevant sections of the national security law,” she said.
Cheng urged people not to test the law by using “those eight words”, adding anyone who uses the slogan would definitely be barred from running for public office.
“One must separate from the national security law because the legislation covers acts that endanger national security – it's not concerned with other matters,” she said, “the election is another matter which is governed by another law that has been enacted in Hong Kong.”
She stressed returning officers would have to determine whether candidates for election are genuine in allegiance to uphold the Basic Law.
At the same time, Cheng assured that local media would not be affected by the new law, and said they need not fear as long as they refrain from exaggerating or making up the news with intentions to “overturn” the system.
“A proper discharge of your duties fairly and reporting news objectively on events that have happened cannot possibly land you on contravening the articles in the national security law,” Cheng said.
“If you are objectively, dutifully and professionally reporting the news, there is nothing that would affect your duties now.”
She also emphasized the Department of Justice would be making criminal prosecutions without any interference from the mainland enforcement agency to tackle national security law cases.
The Department of Justice has established a specialized division responsible for the prosecution of offenses endangering national security in accordance with article 18 of the new law.
“The specialized unit will have working with the Committee for Safeguarding National Security, but it doesn't mean we will make arbitrary prosecutions or disregard any evidence.”