Published: 00:17, June 9, 2020 | Updated: 01:00, June 6, 2023
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Hong Kong’s autonomy cannot be decided by the United States or Britain
By Zhou Bajun

The 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) on May 28, 2020 overwhelmingly approved the Decision on Establishing and Improving the Legal System and Enforcement Mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to Safeguard National Security (the decision). The decision authorizes the NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) to enact relevant laws for the purpose of ensuring national security and to effectively prevent, suppress and punish acts meant to divide the country and subvert the State or conspiracy to organize terrorist activities as well as interference by external forces in internal affairs of the HKSAR.

All sovereign states in the world today have enacted national security laws to safeguard their territories and national interests. However, it has been almost 23 years since China resumed the exercise of sovereign rule over Hong Kong but the SAR has yet to fulfill its constitutional obligation of contributing to national security by enacting a law according to Article 23 of the Basic Law. Thus, the city has been used by some Western powers such as the US to carry out their anti-China strategies in recent years. The latest was the “black revolution”, which has posed an unprecedented threat to the national security, sovereignty and development interests of China and caused damage of epic proportions to Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity since it began a year ago. That is why the central authorities have no choice but to take the matter of national security legislation into its own hands and exercise its constitutional right and power to plug any national security loophole existing in the HKSAR by enacting a relevant law. 

This is no doubt China’s domestic affairs, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted the other day that Hong Kong must not fulfill its constitutional obligation of enacting a national security law according to Article 23 of the Basic Law, because it would be in conflict with US interests. The United Kingdom government, on its part, opposes such a law in Hong Kong and has been using the Sino-British Joint Declaration as an excuse.

London officially responded to the NPC decision on May 28 when Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC News that, if Beijing enacts the proposed national security law for Hong Kong, the British government would extend the visa-free stay of British National Overseas (BNO) passport holders, allowing them to stay in the UK for up to 12 months, making it easier for them to apply to work and study — and probably for UK citizenship.

Washington responded a day later on May 29 with a much tougher stance than London’s. US President Donald Trump announced that the US would revoke the “preferential treatment” for Hong Kong and implement sanctions against the central government and Hong Kong SAR government officials involved in “undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

By attacking the NPC’s decision to enact a national security law so Hong Kong can fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, Washington and London both exposed their desire to have a say in Hong Kong’s “autonomy” as a special administrative region of China

By attacking the NPC’s decision to enact a national security law so Hong Kong can fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, Washington and London both exposed their desire to have a say in Hong Kong’s “autonomy” as a special administrative region of China. 

Multiple State leaders assured HKSAR deputies to the 13th NPC annual session and Hong Kong members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) that the proposed national security law will not undercut the basic rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents enshrined in the Basic Law. This is because it is first and foremost aimed at a small number of separatists and “violent rioters in black”. Many recent public opinion polls showed the great majority of people in Hong Kong support the national security legislation by the NPC to boost Hong Kong’s role in such matters. Some important figures in the business community who expressed concern over the now-withdrawn extradition law amendment bill last year have also publicly offered their support for the NPC decision to plug national security loopholes in Hong Kong with the law. All these responses prove that the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong people believe the national security law will ensure the SAR’s stability and prosperity as well as the steady and sustained faithful implementation of “one country, two systems”.    

US and UK objections to Beijing’s efforts to plug national security loopholes in Hong Kong, together with Washington’s threat of various sanctions against China, underline their anxiety over the current paradigm shift in the global situation which the world has not seen in a century. Some people from Hong Kong or other places have tried to convince Beijing of the need to give in to US hegemony with such arguments as China not being strong enough to stand up to the US and that it cannot afford to lose Hong Kong’s status as an international financial center. What they failed to see is the unshakable determination of the central government to safeguard China’s sovereignty, national security and development interests. The central authorities are also determined to faithfully implement “one country, two systems” and to counter any attempt by outside forces to interfere in Hong Kong’s internal affairs. 

President Xi Jinping said in his speech to CPPCC members, representing the business community, during the third annual session of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC last month that the country will gradually shift its development mode. It will mainly rely on a domestic demand-driven growth cycle to maintain balanced internal-external cooperation and complimentary development at the same time, so as to add some new competitive edges so the nation can engage in global cooperation as well as enjoying healthy competition. This shows that senior leaders in Beijing are well aware of the drastic changes in the world. They have made clear and accurate assessments of these. China is strategically prepared for the challenges posed by a treacherous external environment.

The HKSAR must accept the reality that the only way for Hong Kong to survive and thrive in the fast-changing relations between China and the US is to reposition itself as quickly as possible. It must adjust its development strategy accordingly. As Washington is set to launch more sanctions against the country, including Hong Kong, the city must find trade partners and customers other than those directed by Washington.

The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.