It seems that the National Security Law for Hong Kong is too powerful to be challenged by hostile anti-China forces in Hong Kong partly because of its deterrent effect and partly because most of the anti-China political figures are either in prison or in self-imposed exile. But the law is not powerful enough to secure public compliance with its statutory provisions as shown by the reprehensible stunt of some the University of Hong Kong students — glorifying domestic terrorism. It came as a great shock to Hong Kong people that the University of Hong Kong Students’ Union Council passed a motion lauding the “sacrifice” of the lone-wolf terrorist who stabbed a police officer before killing himself in Causeway Bay on July 1. Later they apologized. But the apology seemed to lack genuine remorse. Police are now investigating whether the group advocated or incited terrorism under Article 27 of the National Security Law.
Compliance, which is a kind of voluntary law-abiding behavior, is concerned with the influence of what people regard as just and moral as opposed to what is in their self-interest. Contrary to the norms of public decency and morality, the HKUSU Council tried to portray the lone-wolf terrorist in a virtuous light and said it was grateful to him for his “sacrifice”. A question might arise as to whether the members of the council view compliance with the National Security Law as moral and just. Judging from their conduct, they do not intend to voluntarily assume the obligation to comply with the National Security Law. Nor do they understand that safeguarding national security is in the best interest of Hong Kong.
Historically, terrorists were only successful when they could persuade a large portion of the general population that their cause was legitimate and ought to be embraced and aided. It is for this reason that terrorists often accompany their armed struggle with propaganda. To cite an example, some Irish-American supporters of the Irish Republican Army still support the idea propagated by the IRA that only violence will bring about a united Ireland. The terrorists recognize that unless they can gain a psychological foothold within the general population, they will not prevail. We must not allow terrorists to gain a psychological foothold in Hong Kong.
Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung criticized the HKUSU Council for mourning and glorifying the lone-wolf attacker, saying that such behavior reversed right and wrong. Executive Councilor Ronny Tong Ka-wah and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yewuk-wah warned that the members of the HKUSU Council could face legal action for spreading terrorism. Besides triggering a storm of criticism from all sides, the council’s glorification of the attacker has placed the importance of national security education at the forefront of everyone’s mind. If we do not give priority to national security education, we will have no option but to tolerate the growth of terrorism-advocating propaganda in Hong Kong. Ignoring the importance of national security education may unleash destructive forces that we cannot contain and control. The recent discovery of a bomb-making plot in Tsim Sha Tsui is an all-too-painful reminder of the existence of these destructive forces.
The episode is further evidence that many of our young minds have been poisoned by the toxic ideas and ideologies instilled by some politically-driven educators and leaders of the opposition camp
We should also take a close look at the equally dangerous remarks made by Johannes Chan Man-mun and Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee. The former, a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, tried to justify the open display of tribute to the attacker by laying flowers at the crime scene. Chan claimed that the laying of floral tributes could be merely out of sympathy for the deceased or a manifestation of their discontent with the government. Ex-legislative councilor Ng tended to sympathize with the mourners by linking their moves to their “isolation” and “frustration”.
The two ostensibly talked about sympathy. But they played semantic games tactfully to camouflage their pro-terrorist messages which could also incite hatred against the government. Were they corrupting the minds of our young people? Great credit should be given to the warning issued by Yeung. He pointed out that some people were suspected of abetting students to engage in terrorist activities, pushing young people with little life experience into the abyss of criminality. He also reminded educators of the importance of teaching students about the law.
Further adding to our headache is the improper remarks of a pro-establishment public figure in response to the open display of tribute to the attacker. She said that paying tribute remains the realm of thought, with which the criminal law ought not to concern itself, and therefore paying a floral tribute may not be a criminal offense. Unfortunately, she has paid no attention to Article 27 of the National Security Law, which specifies the offense of advocating terrorism. According to some mainland legal scholars, advocating terrorism refers to the act of propagating, defending or glorifying the theory and practice of terrorism.
The episode is further evidence that many of our young minds have been poisoned by the toxic ideas and ideologies instilled by some politically driven educators and leaders of the opposition camp. Their ability to use lexical hedges and implicatures to advocate terrorism in a sophisticated manner is a serious cause of concern. It is difficult to see, by any stretch of the imagination, why the HKUSU Council has gone beyond the moral boundaries. The episode shows that there is something wrong with our education system, and that we should awaken to the necessity for national security education in Hong Kong.
Junius Ho is a Legislative Council member and a solicitor.
Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister and a part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and the Macao Basic Law Research Center.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS