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Published: 01:05, October 28, 2021 | Updated: 01:06, November 02, 2021
National security legislation a law that was long overdue
By Xiao Ping
Published:01:05, October 28, 2021 Updated:01:06, November 02, 2021 By Xiao Ping

Editor’s note: This is the second of a four-part series on the far-reaching significance of the National Security Law for Hong Kong and the special administrative region’s electoral reforms. The four commentaries will be included in the upcoming new edition of the author’s 16-article book on the “one country, two systems” principle, which was first published in May 2020.

The National People’s Congress Standing Committee passed the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on June 30, 2020. It filled a blank in the country’s institutional infrastructure, put an end to the absence of national security protection in Hong Kong and is now the statutory pillar of national security protection and long-term peace and stability in the HKSAR.

Development cannot proceed without security. The National Security Law for Hong Kong is designed solely to protect the country’s national security and ensure the security of the HKSAR government. It prevents, stops, and punishes crimes of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and colluding with external forces to endanger national security, all of which are still happening in Hong Kong and posing a grave threat to national security today

It is a law that was long overdue. The HKSAR has yet to pursue national security legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law; the current National Security Law of the People’s Republic of China, enacted on July 1, 2015, does not apply to the HKSAR or the Macao Special Administrative Region because of the “one country, two systems” principle. The absence of a law for Hong Kong to fulfill its constitutional obligation in protecting national security allowed separatist forces to advocate “Hong Kong independence” in recent years and launch a “color revolution” known as “black revolution” in Hong Kong in 2019, when black-clad rioters raised hell in Hong Kong in collusion with hostile external forces with the most destructive unrest since the city returned to the motherland in 1997. This posed a direct threat to China’s national security as well as the safety of the HKSAR government, forcing the central authorities to take action and end the dangerous situation in Hong Kong. The Central People’s Government is authorized by the Constitution to retain the power and assume the ultimate responsibility of protecting national security, which shall not be affected by Article 23 of the Basic Law of the HKSAR. Nothing can stop the central government from pushing for national security legislation for the HKSAR when the latter is not in a position to fulfill its constitutional obligation to safeguard national security by legislating according to Article 23 of the Basic Law.

Development cannot proceed without security. The National Security Law for Hong Kong is designed solely to protect the country’s national security and ensure the security of the HKSAR government. It prevents, stops, and punishes crimes of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and colluding with external forces to endanger national security, all of which are still happening in Hong Kong and posing a grave threat to national security today. The National Security Law enforced in Hong Kong only targets a small number of criminals while protecting the freedom of speech and other rights of Hong Kong residents recognized by the Basic Law.

To address the absence of a law in Hong Kong to fulfill its national security obligations and the HKSAR authority’s inability to stop such harmful behavior in the region, the National Security Law promulgated for the HKSAR names four crimes for severe punishment upon conviction, with enforcement mechanisms to boot, including setting up the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the HKSAR, the appointment of a national security adviser to the committee by the central government, establishing a national security division in the Hong Kong Police Force, an office in charge of prosecuting national security crimes in the Department of Justice, and requiring the chief executive of the HKSAR to file national security reports to the central authorities regularly. Another key national security law enforcement measure is the establishment of the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to supervise, guide, coordinate and support the HKSAR in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities for safeguarding national security.

 Hong Kong, by virtue of its constitutional order as a special administrative region of China, has constitutional obligations to safeguard the country’s national security within its jurisdiction. The National Security Law enforced in Hong Kong does not exempt the HKSAR from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to legislate according to Article 23 of the Basic Law; it does not cover all seven crimes against national security listed in Article 23. That means the HKSAR must assume its constitutional responsibility in safeguarding national security by completing its own legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law as soon as possible. The HKSAR maintains jurisdiction over all national security-related criminal cases occurring in Hong Kong except the three types listed in Article 55 of the National Security Law, which shall be handled by the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the mainland law enforcement departments concerned according to relevant national laws. The establishment of two national security law enforcement mechanisms on state and regional levels is a significant innovation in the exercise of “one country, two systems”.

 “One country” is the host of “two systems”, meaning the “one country, two systems” principle works only when the country’s national security is intact. President Xi Jinping has laid down “three bottom lines” for “one country, two systems” that must never be crossed, and the National Security Law enforced in Hong Kong is the institutional embodiment of the “three bottom lines” to ensure the security of the HKSAR system and the HKSAR government.

Law is made to punish crimes with an eye on prevention. The National Security Law enforced in the HKSAR has closed an institutional gap that posed a major risk to Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability as well as the country’s national security and development interest. It also helps strengthen Hong Kong society’s awareness of the rule of law, especially on national security matters within the jurisdiction of the HKSAR. Its unique value is undeniable and indispensable.

The author is a veteran current affairs commentator.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 


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