The passage of the landmark National Security Law on June 30 — the day before the 23rd anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China — has rocked the city to its foundations. But of course I am not referring to the law itself but the reactions that followed since it came into force.
Since the passage of the National Security Law, three distinct types of people have emerged from the opposition camp.
First, those who have expediently changed their stance by doing a U-turn. They have either: resigned from their leadership positions, publicly disowned their previous views, disbanded their opposition groups, or severed ties with other members of the opposition. Some have even fled Hong Kong and sought refuge in places like the United Kingdom or Taiwan.
These are the same people who have been deliberately abusing the freedom of expression, and inciting hatred to the point of getting young Hong Kong people to carry out acts of terrorism.
Second, those who have been misguided by the first type — the demagogues — and have been naively led to believe that they can change Hong Kong through acts of sedition, secession, and collusion with foreign or external forces. These people need to wake up and see the ugly faces of those agitators.
Finally, those who know perfectly well what they are doing but are using their knowledge to seek personal gain, whether it be financial or political capital, at huge personal cost to their blinded followers.
Now that the National Security Law is in place, those who have been taking advantage of the legal vacuum have been effectively deterred by the law and will stop taking advantage of the disturbances that have been unsettling Hong Kong for more than a year.
The agitators who have led formative young minds astray, incited violence and pushed for Hong Kong independence will now have nowhere to hide and will face the weight of the law. They must be brought to justice. ... They owe Hong Kong not only a legal debt but also a huge moral reparation
As for the first and second types, it is hoped that they will be either held to account or corrected as the case may be.
Under the new law, those who made it a habit of filibustering in the Legislative Council, brought Central and other business districts to a standstill, advocated Hong Kong independence, colluded with external forces including foreign governments, and attempted to influence local elections would do well to remember that such acts are now criminal offenses under the new law.
Specifically, Articles 20 and 35 of the law prohibit the following offenses, and accordingly prescribe the levels of punishments.
Article 20 states that any and all who organize, plan, commit or participate in any acts that undermine national unity are subject to punishment. Principal offenders are liable to imprisonment of no less than 10 years, or for life.
As for those who actively participate in the offense, they are liable to imprisonment between three and 10 years. Others who have taken part in the offense but in a manner less severe will be subject to imprisonment of less than three years; short-term detention or restrictions may also be handed down to these offenders.
Article 35 states that any person who is convicted of an offense that endangers national security will be immediately disqualified from standing in any elections, including those for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, the District Councils, the Election Committee for electing the chief executive, or any public office within the special administrative region.
Further to this, any member of the Legislative Council, Executive Council, District Council, public servant, government official, judge or judicial officer, or any individual who has taken an oath or declaration to uphold the Basic Law will be removed from office upon conviction. Additionally, the convicted individual will not be allowed to stand for any future elections or hold any posts in public office.
Some may feel that these are harsh punishments, but China is determined to send a message to any and all who challenges the national security in the SAR.
There are two more articles of the National Security Law that I wish to highlight: Article 14 and Article 60.
Firstly, Article 14 states that institutions, organizations, or individuals are not to interfere in the work of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security, which is chaired by the chief executive.
Decisions made by the committee are not subject to judicial review, and any information relating to their work must not be disclosed by any of its members.
Secondly, Article 60 relates to acts that may be performed by the Office for Safeguarding National Security. Any acts performed by the office in accordance with the National Security Law will not be subject to jurisdiction by the HKSAR.
These articles will ensure two things.
One, those in the opposition camp who engaged in activities that undermine national security will discontinue their follies in the future. This hopefully will return political and social stability, which are a crucial part of rebuilding Hong Kong.
Two, the true and full picture of the offenders and their offenses will be revealed and brought to the attention of Hong Kong and the world at large.
The agitators who have led formative young minds astray, incited violence and pushed for Hong Kong independence will now have nowhere to hide and will face the weight of the law. They must be brought to justice. The most despicable fact about the agitators is that none of their children or grandchildren has even taken part in any of the illegal activities. They owe Hong Kong not only a legal debt but also a huge moral reparation. They should be roundly condemned by society. How can they sleep at night?
Thankfully, with the new law in place, particularly with the provisions regarding schools and education, no more youngsters will be fooled into becoming political sacrifices.
I urge these idealistic youngsters to remember a few things. They must ensure that any action they wish to take about Hong Kong and the country is legal and proper.
I always advocate independent and analytical thinking, plus an interest in politics for our younger generation. But I also underscore how crucial it is for all to think carefully about which side of history they will end up being on.
The author is president of Wisdom Hong Kong, a think tank.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS