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National security non-negotiable in HK

By Chow Pak-chin | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-30 11:41

Since the National People’s Congress’ announcement of a plan to enact a national security law for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, criticism has, as expected, been coming in from the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union’s governments.

No matter what the political motivations of these foreign governments may be, it is simply out of place for them to comment — let alone interfere — in matters that are China’s internal affairs.

Legislation serves longtime need

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress condemned a resolution by the European Parliament on Hong Kong’s upcoming national security legislation, against which it has spoken out.

While it is not only improper for a foreign government to comment on another country’s own affairs, Hong Kong must protect China’s sovereignty and security; and the new national security law will do just that.

The US has also taken issue with the legislation, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo going as far to say that this move is a show of disrespect by China against Hong Kong’s autonomy. Frankly, Pompeo’s comments couldn’t be further from the truth. Quite apart from the fact that Hong Kong enjoys only a high degree of autonomy, and not full autonomy, we cannot ignore the point about the US’ own national security laws, which are numerous.

In 1947, the National Security Act was introduced in the US following World War II with the intention of restructuring the country’s intelligence and military agencies. The Patriot Act — which was swiftly passed after the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — is another major national security law that came into being.

The UK, Canada, Australia and France have also introduced laws to preserve their nation’s security and citizens’ safety; so why shouldn’t Hong Kong do the same for the security and well-being of the city and the country as a whole?

There is a clear and present need for the new law, which is reasonable, proportional and constitutionally sound. In fact, it’s considerably laxer in comparison to the US’, for example; capital punishment is instituted for those who commit the worst acts of terrorism in the US.

No violation of Basic Law

Adhering to the “one country, two systems” principle, the law authorizes the HKSAR government to put in place measures of its own; for example, establishing a commission to take up national security responsibilities. The commission together with the rest of the SAR government will be held accountable to the central government.

The responsibilities of the SAR have been spelled out in Article 23 of the Basic Law, which states the following:

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region “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 organisations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organisations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies.”

So the question of national security and the responsibilities on the shoulders of Hong Kong have been spelled out from day one. Hong Kong is duty-bound to implement national security laws, which is entirely in its interests. Critics’ claims that the new legislation breaches the Basic Law are entirely unfounded.

Sadly, since Hong Kong has not been able to comply with Article 23 — even 23 years after the reunification — and given the developments in the past year, the central authorities have no choice but to act swiftly and accordingly.

Violent protesters have been blatantly waving British and American flags in demonstrations to openly challenge China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong and demanding the return of British rule or independence for Hong Kong. Could anyone imagine the outrage if the boot was on the other foot, if protesters in other countries regularly waved Chinese flags and asked for Chinese rule? Would these governments not try those people for encouraging acts of secession and subversion, or even for unlawful collusion with external forces?

Law not against joint declaration

As for criticisms that the Sino-British Joint Declaration has been violated, they ought to have a closer examination of the said document. Indeed, no one has enlightened us on exactly which clause in the Joint Declaration China has violated. There is definitely nothing in this document suggesting that China cannot enact a national security law for the HKSAR.

If Beijing were to put aside the “one country, two systems” arrangement, it could have simply extended the application of such existing laws to Hong Kong. The fact is, the new national security law is drafted within the “one country, two systems” framework. The central government is reserving onto itself only certain powers which are needed to deal with exceptional cases. It is purely fearmongering to claim Hong Kong people fear that Beijing is “imposing its will” on Hong Kong, as some 300,000 Hong Kong people have chosen to live in mainland cities, and so have more than 1 million Taiwan residents. In fact, the new law will ensure national sovereignty while bringing social stability back to the SAR.

As for the claim that Hong Kong residents will be looking to “jump ship” and move to “freer” places like Singapore, let me remind everyone what happened to YouTube star and Wah Kee restaurant founder Alex Yeung.

After giving a talk behind closed doors in a hotel in Singapore speaking about the disturbances in Hong Kong late last year, the Singaporean authorities withheld Yeung’s passport for a month and accused him of organizing the gathering without a permit, which is illegal.

Western countries’ duplicity exposed

In actuality, this is a good lesson for Hong Kong people who think they can seek “asylum” in Singapore, and a reminder for Western governments who use double standards and claim that the Hong Kong government is infringing upon the rights of its citizens.

History has shown that many Western governments take national security very seriously. Look at the failed Catalan independence movement in Spain in 2017. Those who led the referendum were subsequently tried for the nonviolent effort leading to the referendum vote. The elected representatives of Catalonia were severely dealt with and received prison terms from nine to 13 years for the crimes of sedition and misuse of public funds.

If Spain, which prides itself on being an open, democratic society, was allowed to deal with its separatists so mercilessly when it comes to safeguarding its national security, why are some Western governments pointing an accusatory finger at China when it tries to safeguard national security?

The US and other governments are simply not being altruistic; they are being driven by their own economic and strategic interests. US politicians have been threatening sanctions against China and the HKSAR, overlooking the fact that the US has more to lose. The US invests US$30 billion annually in Hong Kong, and that’s not including the many American companies that have offices, businesses and employees in the city.

And the fact is that after the passage of the national security law, Hong Kong still follows the principle of “one country, two systems”. Hong Kong will remain an important and unique gateway to the huge mainland market.

Hong Kong and its people, as well as the rest of China, had been exposed to national security threats without the protection of any national security law. This vacuum has to be dealt with. This is the only way we can save the city, her people and guests.

The author is president of Wisdom Hong Kong, a think tank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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