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Published: 00:36, September 26, 2022 | Updated: 10:22, September 26, 2022
'Holistic security concept' matters in Hong Kong
By Lau Siu-kai
Published:00:36, September 26, 2022 Updated:10:22, September 26, 2022 By Lau Siu-kai

For a long time, Hong Kong people have been quite weak in their understanding of national security and the actions needed to safeguard it. That is closely related to the resistance of some people in Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China, the Communist Party of China and their compatriots on the mainland; the dearth of national education, especially national security education; the incitement and propaganda of hostile forces at home and abroad; and the lack of understanding of the perilous and grim international situation by Hong Kong people. 

Many Hong Kong people believe that as China is already quite strong, it should not face or be apprehensive about national security threats and that Hong Kong as an entrepot is unlikely to pose a security threat to the country. Even though many Hong Kong people are vaguely aware that the US and its Western allies have been using Hong Kong as a base of subversion against China, they are not much concerned about it.

However, today, these attitudes to national security have become seriously out of touch with the times and the situation. For much of the past decade, Hong Kong has been ravaged by turmoil and violent unrest, which in turn has turned the city to some extent into a base of subversion and sabotage that endangers the security of the country. Hong Kong people have become more and more aware that the deep collusion between Hong Kong’s anti-China and troublemaking elements and external forces is the main source of threats to Hong Kong’s stability and national security, and they have begun to realize the importance of safeguarding national security as well as the responsibilities that Hong Kong should bear. For this reason, the enactment of the National Security Law for Hong Kong by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has been widely understood and accepted by Hong Kong residents.

The central authorities and the HKSAR government absolutely cannot take the national security issues in Hong Kong lightly, and must be able to cope with all possible vicissitudes and exigencies effectively and with minimal damage, under the spirit of “make a pillow of one’s spear waiting for daybreak”, to competently safeguard national security and Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability. Today and in the years ahead, President Xi’s holistic security concept will provide a powerful ideational weapon and practical guide for both Hong Kong and the nation to tackle the tasks

Looking ahead, both the country and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will unavoidably face more complex, changeable, severe and multifaceted national security threats. Regrettably, a lot of Hong Kong residents’ understanding of national security is still partial and largely limited to conventional national security threats, among which military intrusions and espionage are best known. Many Hong Kong people know well that as an open city at the crossroad between China and the West, Hong Kong has oftentimes been sarcastically labeled as the “capital of spies”. Nevertheless, the general public is yet to be troubled by this threat to national security.

However, under the rapid, inexorable, and unrelenting development of science and technology, globalization and the growing interdependence of different countries in trade, finance and security, more and more national security threats are coming from unconventional domains. As a result, new concepts related to national security are emerging, such as “hybrid war”, “gray-zone warfare”, “unrestricted warfare”, etc. In the new era and new situation, more national security threats do not come from military attacks or conventional espionage, but from wars without smoke, such as “color revolutions”, scientific, technological, and trade sanctions, financial wars, food and energy blockades, ideological inculcation, anti-government propaganda, fomenting religious and ethnic tensions, promoting social divisions, disinformation, misinformation, rumormongering, and the cultivation of anti-government forces within hostile countries. In his new book, The Weaponization of Everything: A Field Guide to the New Way of War, Mark Galeotti asserts that the battles of today and in the future will increasingly be fought in the forms of disinformation, espionage (especially commercial espionage), crime and subversion. The purpose is to foment political unrest and a crisis of legitimacy within the target country. As a result, in addition to governments, militaries and spies, more and more businesses, social organizations, international agencies, non-governmental organizations, religious groups, educational institutions and media outlets will be active and indispensable participants in those wars without smoke. Hong Kong people, having experienced the baptism of “black-clad riots” in 2019-20, should have a deep understanding of this.

Therefore, the holistic view of national security, or “holistic security concept”, put forward by President Xi Jinping in April 2014 and written into the Constitution of the Communist Party of China, is extremely relevant and significant to Hong Kong today and in the foreseeable future, considering the complex international, national and local contexts wherein Hong Kong finds itself. The holistic security concept has a solid theoretical base, is rich in Chinese philosophical thinking, is deeply informed by the changing national and international situation, and has great practical value. This concept encompasses and emphasizes external and internal security, security of the nation and security of the people, conventional security and unconventional security, and security in the political, territorial, military, economic, cultural, science and technology, information, ecological, resource, and nuclear domains. The widespread propagation of this concept in society and its inclusion in all national security education curricula will give Hong Kong people, particularly youngsters, a comprehensive and profound understanding of the variegated and grave threats to national security and the stability of Hong Kong. It will also help increase the sense of crisis and boost the sense of responsibility to safeguard national security among different sectors of Hong Kong society. Moreover, it will provide a theoretical and practical guide to the HKSAR government in its efforts to safeguard national security and local stability.

Now and in the future, the US and its Western allies are dead set to regard China as a “strategic competitor”, a “systemic rival”, or even as an incorrigible “existential threat”. They are determined to pull out all the stops to contain, isolate, weaken, and even “Westernize” China in an all-around manner and into the long-term future. The national security situation facing the country has become more complex and severe. In the next few years, as the situation in the Taiwan Straits deteriorates, the friction between China and the US-led West is bound to intensify and become more and more dangerous. Military clashes across the Taiwan Straits cannot be ruled out. Since the US and its Western allies have long treated Hong Kong as a place that can be turned into a base of subversion, infiltration and sabotage against the Chinese mainland, it can be expected that they will spare no effort to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and ramp Hong Kong up as a serious security threat to China. Consequently, Hong Kong must proceed from an urgent sense of crisis and a deep sense of responsibility to the country and the nation, vigorously install the needed institutions, laws, policies and measures necessary to safeguard Hong Kong’s prosperity, stability and national security, and work together closely with the central authorities and all sectors of society to make the city an impregnable national security fortress.

In the coming period, Hong Kong must do a good job in safeguarding national security and its stability in several aspects. First and foremost, as an international financial center and the premier offshore renminbi center, financial security is undoubtedly Hong Kong’s soft underbelly. If they are willing to disregard their interests, the US and its allies do have powerful means to impair Hong Kong’s status and capacity as an international financial center, undermine Hong Kong’s financial and currency stability, cripple Hong Kong’s ability to contribute to national development in the financial sector (such as the internationalization of the renminbi), and cajole or compel foreign investors and talent to withdraw from Hong Kong. Second, the developments of the past two years suggest that the US and its allies will continue to intensify their attacks and infiltration of Hong Kong in the ideological field, and will continue to promote the notions that “one country, two systems” has ceased to exist in Hong Kong, and that democracy, human rights and freedom in Hong Kong are under severe duress. They will continue to allege that there is no guarantee of the rule of law and personal safety, that the investment environment in Hong Kong has deteriorated sharply and will continue to do so unabated, and that Hong Kong’s prospects are worrying and will continue to degenerate. The purpose of such malicious political propaganda and innuendo is to cause division and infighting within Hong Kong, weaken Hong Kong people’s confidence in the city’s future, shatter public trust in Beijing and the HKSAR government, and plunge Hong Kong into a long-term turbulent situation. The US and many Western media, politicians and NGOs will play a leading role in this offensive, while the anti-China subversives in Hong Kong and overseas will respond in droves to magnify their adverse impact. Third, the US and its allies will impose various onerous sanctions on Hong Kong and individuals to “punish” them for all kinds of “evil deeds” and “crimes” against Western values and beliefs they have committed in the city, to create a deterrent and intimidating effects. Fourth, the US and its allies will strive to partially “decouple” themselves from Hong Kong in the economic, trade, legal and technological aspects to slow down Hong Kong’s economic growth, hamper the city’s efforts to broaden its industrial base, and in the long run impair Hong Kong’s prosperity, stability and its value to China. In their reckoning, a Hong Kong in decline will foment escalating public frustration and discontent and turn Hong Kong into a trouble spot for China and slow down its rise. Finally, if a military conflict breaks out between the two sides of the Taiwan Straits or between China and the US, the pressure applied by the US and its allies on China, including Hong Kong, will be doubled for sure.

The central authorities and the HKSAR government absolutely cannot take the national security issues in Hong Kong lightly, and must be able to cope with all possible vicissitudes and exigencies effectively and with minimal damage, under the spirit of “make a pillow of one’s spear waiting for daybreak”, to competently safeguard national security and Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability. Today and in the years ahead, President Xi’s holistic security concept will provide a powerful ideational weapon and practical guide for both Hong Kong and the nation to tackle the tasks.

The author is a professor emeritus of sociology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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