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The best interests of society were kept in mind

By Zhao Bajun | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-07-01 09:20
Photo taken on Aug 5, 2019 shows China's national flag and the flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on the Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong, China. [Photo/Xinhua]

The new national security law, which is tailor-made for implementation in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, specifically targets four categories of criminal acts-secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security in the HKSAR.

The Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress unanimously approved the law on safeguarding national security in the HKSAR of the People's Republic of China on Tuesday. The special administrative region's government immediately gazetted the law by way of Annex III of the Basic Law of the HKSAR.

The new law also contains corresponding punishments for those found guilty of crimes that endanger national security, for which the maximum punishment is life imprisonment.

In the United States, the maximum penalty for treason is death, while the maximum penalty in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia is life in prison.

The law stipulates that the right of jurisdiction over crimes endangering national security rests with the SAR government except under three specific circumstances.

It also authorizes Hong Kong to conduct criminal investigation into, prosecution of and resulting judicial procedures against such crimes according to local as well as this national law.

All cases of this nature will be subject to public prosecution. Defendants can only be found guilty of crimes specified in this law; otherwise they are presumed innocent and cannot be punished.

The security law protects the right to criminal defense and other means of legal representation for any suspect or defendant according to standard judicial rules.

Once found guilty or not guilty in the court of national security law, one cannot be prosecuted, tried or sentenced again for the same offense. All these are proof that the law pays due respect to the common-law system and coexists with Hong Kong's laws as much as possible.

The law does not set a statute of limitation for crimes that endanger national security, in order to maintain adequate deterrence toward acts that endanger national security of the PRC in Hong Kong.

Those who had committed crimes of this nature before the new law took effect, no matter how serious they were, will not be prosecuted according to this law as long as they refrain from committing such offenses after it took effect.

Of course, one's criminal acts that endangered national security before this law became effective can be taken into consideration in deliberation and sentencing by the court of national security if one is accused of endangering national security now. It is a practice common among judiciaries around the world.

It is public knowledge that Beijing would not have exercised its sovereign right of safeguarding its national security with a law for Hong Kong had Washington not masterminded and funded a criminal campaign in the SAR for over a year now to harm China's sovereignty, national security and development interests.

The US kept accusing China of eroding Hong Kong's autonomy, but the great majority of Hong Kong residents agree with the central government and have wholeheartedly supported the national security legislation since the NPC announced the decision to go for it.

Local entrepreneurs, who had misgivings and even opposed the extradition law amendment bill introduced by the SAR government in March last year, have since been convinced by the crimes committed by rioters and the damage caused to the Hong Kong economy that there can be no business as usual without social stability and order, which depends on effective rule of law.

That is why Hong Kong-based British conglomerates such as Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp, Standard Chartered Bank and Swire Pacific Group expressed their support for China's sovereign right to safeguard national security by enhancing the rule of law in Hong Kong despite the official stand of the UK government against it.

At this point, we can recall President Xi Jinping's words in his 2020 New Year speech: "Without a harmonious and stable environment, how can people live in peace and enjoy their work! I sincerely wish Hong Kong well and our Hong Kong compatriots well. Hong Kong's prosperity and stability are the wish of Hong Kong compatriots and the expectation of people of our motherland." Like numerous people around the world as well as the Chinese nation, I trust the top leaders of our nation had nothing but the best interests of Hong Kong society in mind when they decided to have a national security law promulgated by the NPCSC, which will ultimately benefit all Hong Kong residents and businesses the most.

The author is a senior research fellow at China Everbright Holdings. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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