The promulgation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong has attracted much internal and international attention, with the alleged “unexpected harshness” of the new law being one of the focuses. Nonetheless, the law shouldn’t merely be viewed from the legal perspective without paying due regard to the context of why the law had to be enacted in the first place.
In reality, it is what happened in Hong Kong in the past year that has forced the central authorities in Beijing to take the legislative move. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region endured persistent social unrest since June 2019, during which a blatant separatist movement and budding terrorism were clearly witnessed. As all these constitute a real and direct threat to national security, the discussions should focus on whether the new law can effectively respond to the current threat, rather than on how “draconian” the law is.
Currently, the social turmoil has been largely curbed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though a number of radicals risk breaking the law, the occurrence of another massive tumultuous movement is highly unlikely. We will need some other litmus tests to measure the effectiveness of the new law, and the Legislative Council election in September will be one of them. A few months ago, the opposition camp vowed to undertake the so-called “35+” campaign to grab more than half of the seats in LegCo so that they would have the clout to coerce the SAR government into yielding to their political demands, or even to dominate the nomination of candidates for the next chief executive election. The whole plan is to snatch the governing power of the HKSAR, and resist the central government by exploiting the power they control in the legislature and executive branch. The ultimate aim is to split the country from inside its institution.
The “35+” campaign is at the end of its rope and the opposition camp is losing in its plot intended to resist the central government. If its members still wish to play a role within the political establishment, they will have to change their course in these few months — from indulging in political wrangling to focusing on practical issues such as social and livelihood issues
To the relief of Hong Kong people, many of the provisions in the new National Security Law embrace the concept of safeguarding national security in elections. For instance, Article 6 stipulates that “A resident of the Region who stands for election or assumes public office shall confirm in writing or take an oath to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China in accordance with the law”; Article 29 targets a foreign country or an institution, organization or individual outside the mainland, Hong Kong and Macao of the People’s Republic of China who may be “rigging or undermining an election in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which is likely to cause serious consequences”; Article 35 specifies that “A person who is convicted of an offence endangering national security by a court shall be disqualified from standing as a candidate in the elections of the Legislative Council and district councils of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, holding any public office in the Region, or serving as a member of the Election Committee for electing the Chief Executive. If a person so convicted is a member of the Legislative Council, a government official, a public servant, a member of the Executive Council, a judge or a judicial officer, or a member of the district councils, who has taken an oath or made a declaration to uphold the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and swear allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, he or she shall be removed from his or her office upon conviction, and shall be disqualified from standing for the aforementioned elections or from holding any of the aforementioned posts”. These provisions will be effective in deterring any acts that can endanger national security.
With the above-mentioned provisions in place, the “35+” campaign is doomed. Since Article 6 of the new law requires all election candidates to confirm in writing to uphold the Basic Law, and the National Security Law has been added to Annex III of the Basic Law, candidates who oppose this provision will be regarded as failing to uphold the Basic Law, which is a justifiable reason for the returning officers to disqualify them from running for elections. Hence, the new law ensures that all elected lawmakers will uphold the Basic Law and pledge their allegiance to the HKSAR, which is in line with the concept of “Hong Kong to be run by patriots” as advocated by the late State leader Deng Xiaoping. No matter how many non-pro-establishment lawmakers are elected in the upcoming LegCo election, they will never be allowed to become a subversive force within the political establishment of Hong Kong. Thus, the political agenda of the “35+” campaign is doomed now.
The “35+” campaign is at the end of its rope and the opposition camp is losing in its plot intended to resist the central government. If its members still wish to play a role within the political establishment, they will have to change their course in these few months — from indulging in political wrangling to focusing on practical issues such as social and livelihood issues. Proposing specific and practical measures to tackle urgent issues such as an aging population, welfare policies, housing, land, etc., will be the only way with which they can win support from voters.
The author is senior research officer of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS