Beijing pushes national security law for HK

Top News | Michael Shum 22 May 2020

China's top legislative body will tailor-make a "Hong Kong national security law" and include it in an annex of the Basic Law so it can be implemented in the SAR.

The national committee of the National People's Congress has been endorsed to legislate the law, which will ban acts of secession, subversion against the central government, and prohibit acts of foreign intervention as well as terrorism.

Its implementation in Hong Kong will be based on Basic Law Article 18, which says national laws can be listed in Annex III of the city's mini-constitution.

The law can be applied locally by promulgation or local legislation -the former option means it is possible to bypass Legislative Council. The news unsettled markets, with the Hang Seng Futures last night falling below 24,000 - a drop of more than 300 points.

Xinhua News Agency last night reported the NPC will be discussing a motion about improving Hong Kong's legal mechanism on defending national security.

The motion is expected to be voted on next Thursday. Its national committee will be following up on the motion.

Earlier, the chief of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Xia Baolong, briefed Hong Kong delegates to the NPC for the first time last night and discussed the legislation.

The method of legislation was in line with the suggestion of NPC deputy Maggie Chan Man-ki.

She said on Tuesday that she will propose to Beijing legislating national security laws as national laws and listing them under Basic Law's annex III.

That would allow implementation of such laws without going through Hong Kong's Legislative Council and make the law immediately applicable to Hong Kong, she said. The central government has been pressing the SAR to introduce laws to step up national security.

Under Article 23, the SAR will enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion against the central government.

The new national law will cover most aspects mentioned in Article 23. Sources said it can empower the SAR to bust any organizations involved in "color revolutions" and ones used by foreign bodies to infiltrate Hong Kong.

Members of such organizations can be banned from entering Hong Kong, and from providing funding to local opposition groups.

Political commentator Bruce Lui Ping-kuen said that such legislation could be more severe than enacting Article 23. Sources said the national security law is different from laws enacted under Article 23.

"The national security law is in fact 'spicier' and is also the quickest way of doing it, as it does not need to go through local legislation and can take effect very quickly."

He added that the wording of the legislation will be very broad, allowing space for interpretation by the courts, "but the national security law in the mainland always puts the safety of the regime first, before territorial integrity, its sovereignty and economy.

"Therefore, critics of the Communist Party, those advocating the end of one-party rule in China or even writing commentaries is very risky, as the Communist Party is the essence of socialism with Chinese characteristics and shall not be challenged."

Eric Cheung Tat-ming, a principal lecturer at the University of Hong Kong's law faculty, said: "Beijing taking this tack is basically announcing the failure of one country, two systems and is trying to rewrite the Basic Law. "Article 23 of the Basic Law states that the SAR government should enact national security law on its own," he added.

"This law is tailor-made for Hong Kong, and Beijing is basically enacting laws for Hong Kong."

But the president of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, Stanley Ng Chau-pei, said that there is a need to legislate a national law to cover the SAR's current situation.

"Since the anti-fugitive bill saga last year, radicals and rioters in Hong Kong are colluding with foreign powers, and it is obvious they are trying to subvert state power," Ng said.

"But current laws in Hong Kong can do nothing about it, which shows that Hong Kong is a weak point of China's national security, and something must be done as soon as possible to plug the loophole."

Article 18 of the Basic Law states that national laws will not be applied in Hong Kong except for those listed in Annex III of the Basic Law, which should be applied locally by way of promulgation or legislation by the SAR government.

But there are limitations by listing national laws in Annex III of the Basic Law, as laws will be confined to those relating to defense and foreign affairs as well as other matters outside the limits of the autonomy of the SAR.

There are currently six laws listed under Annex III of the Basic Law, including laws on the national flag and emblem and the garrisoning of the SAR.

Article 23 is unlikely to be legislated in the Legislative Council in two years as the current term ends in two months with an election in September.

The SAR is still reeling from the anti-fugitive bill unrest that started in June last year.

Police and government officials have been warning of a growing trend in home-grown terrorism, after bombs were found in different districts of Hong Kong.

Back in February 2003, former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa first attempted to enact national security laws under Article 23.

The proposed bill sparked controversy and led to demonstrations, including a mass protest with 500,000 people taking to the streets in protest against the bill on July 1, 2003, and the resignation of then-secretary for security Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee. The bill was eventually shelved indefinitely.

Editorial: Top-down security law for good - or bad

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