- Plugging a hole through foreign interference crept in
At the conclusion of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) on May 28, China unanimously approved a plan to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to safeguard national security and suppress subversion, secession, terrorism and any acts that might threaten national security in the city.
Apparently, there is an outcry in the West over alleged suppression of human rights. A closer examination of the legislation indicates that China’s principle of “one country, two systems,” has been preserved for “the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong,” with a high degree of autonomy.
The legislation was necessitated by the increasingly notable national security risks in the HKSAR, which have become a prominent problem, challenging the bottom line of the “one country, two systems” principle, harmed the rule of law, and threatened national sovereignty, security and development interests.
Article 23 of the Basic Law of the HKSAR stipulates that the HKSAR 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 a nutshell, the law firmly safeguards national security; upholding and improving the “one country, two systems”; adhering to governing Hong Kong in accordance with the law; resolutely opposing external interference and substantially safeguarding the legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong residents.
The decision comprises seven articles, which ensure that the country will unswervingly, fully and faithfully implement the principles of “one country, two systems,” “the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong,” and a high degree of autonomy; stresses taking necessary measures to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR to safeguard national security, as well as prevent, stop and punish activities endangering national security in accordance with the law.
It will protect the law-abiding Hong Kong citizens, who are the overwhelming majority, guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong residents and foreign institutions and personnel in Hong Kong, and safeguard the fundamental interests of the state and the HK Special Autonomous Region. It also serves the common interests of the international community. Hong Kong remains China’s internal matter and external agencies have no right to interfere
Secondly, the country resolutely opposes the interference in the HKSAR affairs by any foreign or external forces in any form and will take necessary countermeasures. Thirdly, it specifies that it is the HKSAR’s constitutional responsibilities to safeguard national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity; stresses that the HKSAR must complete the national security legislation stipulated in the Basic Law of the HKSAR at an earlier date and HKSAR’s administrative, legislative and judicial organs must, in accordance with relevant laws and regulations, effectively prevent, stop and punish acts endangering national security. The fourth article specifies that the HKSAR must establish and improve the institutions and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security; when needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People’s Government will set up agencies in the HKSAR to fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law. Additionally, Article 5 specifies that the HKSAR chief executive must regularly report to the Central People’s Government on the HKSAR’s performance of the duty to safeguard national security, carry out national security education and forbid acts of endangering national security. The legislation specifies the constitutional meanings of related legislation of the NPC Standing Committee, entrusting it to formulate relevant laws on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR to safeguard national security. Finally, Article 7 specifies that this decision shall go into effect as of the date of promulgation.
Questions arise as to why this decision was necessitated. Hong Kong is part of China and as such, it shoulders the constitutional responsibility of safeguarding national security. But it has long been defenseless in terms of national security. Under the Basic Law, the HKSAR’s constitutional document, Hong Kong shall enact laws on its own to safeguard national security. This is known as Article 23, which had become so stigmatized and demonized in Hong Kong that it is, in fact, very difficult for the HKSAR Legislative Council (LegCo) to fulfill its legal responsibility of enacting relevant laws. This legal loophole was exploited by local and foreign anti-China forces, making activities jeopardizing national security rampant in Hong Kong.
It may be recalled that last year, rioters besieged the HKSAR government headquarters and public agencies, broke into and vandalized the HKSAR LegCo building, trashed metro stations, banks and stores, assaulted police officers, set fires on the streets, beat up tourists and residents and even made terrorist threats.
The advantages of the national security legislation are that it will solidify the “one country, two systems” principle, under which Hong Kong has a high degree of autonomy and retains its own capitalist economy and legal system.
It is not understood what all the hullabaloo is about because the national security legislation only targets those who attempt to split the country, subvert state power, and organize and carry out terrorist activities, as well as foreign and external forces seeking to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs.
The extensive rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, right to assembly and demonstration, to engage in academic research, to travel and to enter or leave the HKSAR will all remain fully protected by the Basic Law, the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other laws.
The legislation will not affect foreign investors’ legitimate interests in Hong Kong. Instead, it will make Hong Kong a safer and more stable place and improve the confidence of local and overseas investors in doing business in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory is recognized by the World Trade Organization and is guaranteed by the Basic Law of the HKSAR.
Interestingly, major Western countries, including the USA and the UK, have their own national security laws and created a large number of cases through judicial practices.
The National Security Act of the United States was signed into law by then US President Harry Truman on 26 July 1947. The USA also enacted the Patriot Act after the September 11 attacks and the Cloud Act.
Britain passed the Official Secrets Act of 1911 to tackle espionage and renewed it with the Official Secrets Act of 1989. Several more acts on anti-terrorism and national security were enacted after the September 11 attacks. In general, Western countries have built sound legal systems on national security, covering legislation, law enforcement, prosecution, trials and other aspects.
Hong Kong has preserved its common law system since returning to the motherland in 1997, independent from the system adopted on the Chinese mainland.
The legislation will only plug the very apparent loopholes and legal vacuum in national security. It does not affect Hong Kong courts which, under the Basic Law, exercise independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication.
National security is a basic precondition for the existence and development of a nation and it concerns the nation’s core interests. In all countries, unitary and federal alike, only the State legislature has the legislative power on issues concerning national security. The Chinese Central Government bears the primary and ultimate responsibility for safeguarding national security. Safeguarding national security is the core of “one country, two systems” and the foundation for its existence. Only when national security is ensured can Hong Kong enjoy prosperity and stability. To establish and improve a legal framework and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in the HKSAR is to prohibit a very small number of people from splitting the country, subverting state power, organizing and carrying out terrorist activities, and foreign and external forces from interfering in the affairs of the HKSAR. It will protect the law-abiding Hong Kong citizens, who are the overwhelming majority, guarantee the legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong residents and foreign institutions and personnel in Hong Kong, and safeguard the fundamental interests of the state and the HKSAR. It also serves the common interests of the international community. Hong Kong remains China’s internal matter and external agencies have no right to interfere.