CHINA’S top legislature approved a decision on May 28 on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security.
The national security legislation for the Hong Kong SAR is designed to ensure steady implementation of “one country, two systems” in the SAR as well as uphold its long-term stability and prosperity, Premier Li Keqiang said at a news conference following the closure of the third session of the 13th National People’s Congress.
Li said that the principle of “one country, two systems” is the country’s basic policy and the central government has always stressed the need to fully and faithfully implement the principle, under which Hong Kong people administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy.
The NPC Standing Committee will soon formulate related laws for Hong Kong as authorized by the decision in order to safeguard national security and sovereignty and ensure Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, said Li Zhanshu, chairman of the 13th NPC Standing Committee, at the closing meeting of the annual session. The decision accords with China’s Constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law and is in line with the fundamental interests of all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots, he said.
United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement on May 27 that the legislation will undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms and notified the U.S. Congress that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as an autonomous region.
The Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong firmly opposed and rebutted the statement, saying such an accusation is purely defamation and distortion of the “one country, two systems” principle.
The legislation is the responsibility of the central government and targets only very few acts that seriously endanger national security without impairing Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy or the legal rights and freedoms of Hong Kong people, the office said.
Over decades, the U.S. has called Hong Kong “a bastion of liberty” and attempted to use the “Hong Kong model” to change the social system on the Chinese mainland to split, subvert, penetrate. and destroy the mainland, which has proved that the NPC’s decision to enact a national security law is imperative and urgent, it said.
The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said the approval of the decision fully demonstrates the strong will and firm determination of the entire Chinese people against foreign interference in terms of safeguarding national security.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said in a statement on May 29 that she welcomes the approval of the decision by the NPC considering the urgent need to improve Hong Kong’s legal system at the State level.
She said the SAR government will fully cooperate with the NPC Standing Committee to advance legislation as soon as possible and proactively reflect the detailed situation in Hong Kong during the process.
“I strongly believe that various sectors of society will lend their full support for the legislation,” Lam said, adding that the government will also ramp up enforcement of the national security law, raise public awareness of the law, and report regularly to the central government.
Lam reassured Hong Kong residents that the legislation will not affect the legitimate rights and freedoms they are entitled to, but only prevent, curb, and sanction an extremely small minority of criminals who threaten national security.
The increasing national security risks in Hong Kong have become a prominent problem, especially unrest triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill starting last June. The SAR also failed to complete its own legislation on national security as required by Article 23 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that Hong Kong shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against the central government, theft of State secrets, or conspiring with foreign forces.
Ma Yide, a law professor at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law and an NPC deputy, said the decision has a full legal basis.
“The premise and foundation of ‘one country, two systems’ is ‘one country.’ When Hong Kong residents’ rights to live and work are affected, the central government should ‘wield the sword,’” he said, adding that China has every right to defend its integrity, resolve internal affairs, and prevent any act of foreign interference.
Various sectors of Hong Kong on May 29 hailed approval of the decision by the nation’s top legislature.
Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, president of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, said the NPC’s endorsement of the legislation is necessary and urgently needed, adding that the legislation will protect the city’s economy and people’s livelihoods.
Leung also advised the government to double down on its efforts to explain the need and importance of the law for local and international communities to dispel their concerns.
Martin Liao Cheung-kong, a member of the Legislative Council, said there is “firm support” for the approval of the NPC decision. He said the legislation will close a gap in China’s national security system, which was manifested in a year of street violence and terrorism-like attacks.
The Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, a Hong Kong-based legal experts’ group, also issued a statement shortly after the approval, calling the decision “constitutional and valid.”
It said national security, like defense and foreign affairs, is within the jurisdiction of the central government, and these matters do not fall within the scope of the special administrative region’s autonomy.
As of noon on May 28, over 1.85 million people in Hong Kong had signed up to support the national security legislation for the SAR, according to a signature campaign launched by an alliance of various sectors in the city.