Why national security legislation for the HKSAR?
Updated 13:01, 23-May-2020
Kong Qingjiang

Editor's note: Kong Qingjiang is the dean of the School of International Law, China University of Political Science and Law. The article reflects the author's views, and not necessarily those of CGTN.

The Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress has decided to embark on a piece of national security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).

This sends a clear-cut and strong message to outsiders. The central government has no way but to step in to take the legislative initiative.

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 and 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.

Unfortunately, any effort of the SAR in legislating on national security has been unsuccessful since 2003 due to resistance by the opposition. It goes without saying that such frustration that must be felt by the central government has contributed to the decisive move to enact its own version of national security legislation.

In the eyes of the central government, as there are increasing national security risks in Hong Kong, which is represented by the notorious moves of the opposition to disrupt any mainland-related issue within the Hong Kong's legislative council and beyond, the opportunity of having in place the SAR's own version of national security ordinance has been exhausted.

Hong Kong, which used to be a beloved city for many mainland residents, has not only been gloomy, but became a place hostile to them. Due to the constant violent protests, Hong Kong, which used to boast of its prosperity and rule of law-based order, seems to have become a city trapped in chaos.

Such violence is likely to tarnish the SAR's glory as the "Pearl of the Orient," and hamper the life of many ordinary Hong Kong people. It must be pointed out that the central government's legislative move is targeting at nothing but the potential political activities against national security.

The motivation behind the legislative effort is the same as that behind the authorization under Article 23 of the Basic Law. National security is of utmost importance to a state. Hong Kong, as a part of China, must not be used as a base for anti-China activities. The central government is fully aware that the new legislative initiative might trigger strong opposition from within the SAR and beyond. For example, not only will there be more protests, but also the United States might again interfere with China's internal affairs under the pretext of the so-called "Hong Kong Democracy and Human Rights Act".

Therefore, the top legislature's decision illustrates Beijing's firm determination to take whatever it takes to safeguard the national security.  

Meanwhile, it would be hypercritical to view such move as denial of the autonomy of the HKSAR as it is widely known that the Central Government has granted Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy through a solemn act of law, unparalleled anywhere in the world.

Moreover, Article 23 of Basic Law may be seen as an authorization, under which the SAR was authorized to enact national security law on its own. Unfortunately, from its inability to do so has arisen serious consequence, which is not only contributing to the economic downturn of the SAR, but posing a threat to the national security of the country.

Amidst the continuous disruptions by the opposition, the SAR government and the Legislative Council seem to be impotent to fulfill their mandates envisaged in Article 23 of the Basic Law. Against the background, it would be politically unreasonable for the Central People's Government to stand idle. The National People's Congress' legislative move is understandable in this context.

The proposed new piece of national security law is meant to be implemented in Hong Kong despite various difficulties. Concrete measures need to be carefully planned for its implementations in order to bring the Hong Kong version of national security law into full play.

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