Published: 01:56, May 28, 2020 | Updated: 01:44, June 6, 2023
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National security law will spare HK from criminal acts of a few
By Paul Yeung

The National People’s Congress’ draft decision to enact a national security law applicable to Hong Kong has raised concerns among the local community about its implications. Much of the unwarranted fear and rumors surrounding the proposed law originates from people’s lack of understanding of national security. The rationale behind the legislation is, however, not a complex theory, and can be explained in three ways. 

To begin with, national security is an essential and critical component of all nations around the world. The concept of “national security” was developed mostly in the United States after World War II to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic and political power and also diplomacy. Every country has its own legal arrangements to safeguard national security. Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, because of its unique historical background, has been a weak link in national security for decades. 

To plug this loophole, a new law is urgently needed to “prevent, frustrate and punish any secessionist or subversive activity, the organizing of terrorist acts, and other acts that seriously threaten national security, as well as activities of foreign and external interference in Hong Kong”.

As stipulated in Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong, as well as Macao, is required to enact its own national security law. Despite the importance and urgency of a national security law, Hong Kong has consistently failed to fulfill such a constitutional responsibility for almost 23 years since its reunification with the mainland. Macao, on the other hand, passed its own national security law in 2009. Indeed, 2003 was the only year when Hong Kong tried to enact the required law during the past 23 years. Ever since that attempt was thwarted by the opposition camp, the issue has been avoided for many years due to persistent obstruction by the opposition camp. Because of the SAR’s failure to fulfill this constitutional obligation, the city remains a territory of the country unprotected by a national security law, allowing anti-China forces to exploit the resulting legal loopholes. The central government can no longer sit on its hands and watch separatist, subversive and terrorist activities and foreign interference go on in Hong Kong.

Every country has its own legal arrangements to safeguard national security. Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, because of its unique historical background, has been a weak link in national security for decades

Furthermore, the political turmoil and social unrest arising from the anti-extradition-bill movement since June, in which wanton violence posed a severe threat to society, has made it all the more imperative to enact a national security law for Hong Kong without delay. 

The rampant separatist movement in the city, which pushes for Hong Kong independence by leveraging foreign interference and support — particularly from the United States — has also increased the urgency for national security legislation. Persistent violence and political tension has worsened the social atmosphere, making it even harder for the SAR government to initiate the legislation of a local version of the National Security Law. The central government has reason to conclude that it will be impossible for Hong Kong to succeed in passing a national security law on its own. Confronted by such a large security threat, the central government is left with no choice but to act. As Wang Chen, vice-chairman of the NPC’s Standing Committee, explained, “Using Hong Kong to infiltrate and sabotage the mainland touches on our bottom line; it is absolutely intolerable,” and the central government will not allow Hong Kong to be turned into a “base of subversion and infiltration”.

The decision by the central government was made against the backdrop of a rising Sino-US rivalry. If Beijing does not make a bold move in advance, the unresolved national security issue in Hong Kong will only lead to more uncertainty in the future amid escalating tensions between the US and China. In retrospect, when the US passed the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019”, a bill that meddles with China’s internal affairs, it was greeted with joyful glee by the opposition camp. In light of such apparent collusion between the opposition camp and foreign forces, Hong Kong has little choice but to plug the loophole in national security.

The crux of the proposed law rests on whom it targets. It intends to ban all activities aimed at toppling the central government, and conspiration with foreign forces to interfere with the city’s internal affairs, as well as terrorism. It is expected to precisely target separatists and extremists who attempt to turn Hong Kong into a subversive base against China. In Wang’s words, the central government is trying to protect Hong Kong residents from the criminal acts of a small number of extremists. The long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong remains the primary goal of the central government. 

The proposed legislation is unlikely to affect Hong Kong’s business environment in the long run. Take Singapore as an example. Even with a draconian national security law in place, namely the Internal Security Act, the Lion City remains an excellent place to conduct business, pursue a career, and live a good life. Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore and a wise state leader, advised Hong Kong people during a luncheon speech in 2005 that “You can accept that there are these limits, and within those limits (of ‘one country, two systems’), you can thrive and prosper. If I were a Hong Konger today, I would stay and do business.” This is the best advice to all who care about the future of Hong Kong.

The author is senior research officer of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.