National security legislation: a timely rain for Hong Kong's thirsty economy
Updated 13:32, 29-May-2020
Skyline of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. /VCG

Skyline of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China. /VCG

China's top legislature on Thursday adopted a draft decision on national security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) during the closing meeting of the third session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing. 

The draft decision, submitted to the NPC last Friday, aims to improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR, targeting radical activities and foreign interference, which came after a series of widespread protests morphed into broader violent demonstrations that swamped and almost paralyzed parts of the city for much of last year.

In 2019, some two million people took to Hong Kong's streets, with rioters besieging the government headquarters, breaking into the HKSAR LegCo building and assaulting police officers at random, backed quietly by some multinationals and banks, or even lawyers. But the deteriorating economy and lackluster commercial performance are giving them a clear picture of what they have done.

The Hong Kong economy dropped 1.2 percent from a year earlier in 2019, marking the first annual contraction over the past decade, with investment edging down 12.2 percent, and goods exports and imports going through a tumble of 4.7 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively. Even worse, the city's GDP contracted 8.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, the largest recorded decline since the reference period of the first quarter of 1974.

According to Financial Times, several executives working in professional services in Hong Kong, including law firms, global and Chinese-owned banks said they would accept the new law, even though the U.S. threatened to remove Hong Kong's special trade status that distinguishes it from the Chinese mainland.

A senior executive of a global bank told Financial Times that "Hong Kong is dying", as the turbulence and the spread of COVID-19 have tipped the economy into a deep recession, depriving the city of its past glory and vitality. Hong Kong is in a tight spot, and the new security law could be a transition that restores its prosperity.

In accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, the Chinese mainland is entitled to such kind of legislation, which is within the framework of the Basic Law, noted Chung Ting Fai, founder of the Chung Ting Fai & Co Advocates and Solicitors, a law firm in Singapore.

Some critics fear the legislation could severely curb civil liberties in the financial canter, but Chinese mainland officials have reiterated Hong Kong's "high degree of autonomy."

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the draft decision does not affect the high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong and the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents. And it does not affect the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong.