Published: 01:45, June 28, 2021 | Updated: 10:18, June 28, 2021
National Security Law proves watershed in SAR's development
By Tu Haiming

We have much to celebrate on the first anniversary of the National Security Law for Hong Kong on June 30: The National Security Law has turned out to be a watershed institution in the development of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The National Security Law put an end to the “black revolution” in 2019, which ravaged Hong Kong for over a year. It worked like a sword in that evils disappeared as soon as it was drawn. Indeed, separatist forces in Hong Kong have disbanded, run away or gone underground since the National Security Law took effect. And it helped restore social order in the city.

More importantly, the National Security Law has replaced social unrest with peace and stability in Hong Kong and reinforced its constitutional order. The following step was the decision by the National People’s Congress to improve Hong Kong’s electoral system through local legislation according to the Basic Law of the HKSAR, which will ensure that the exercise of “one country, two systems” continues exactly as it was originally intended to.

In other words, both the National Security Law and improvement of Hong Kong’s electoral system serve the same purpose: safeguarding the national interests of the People’s Republic of China and maintaining the lasting stability and prosperity of Hong Kong — the original intent of “one country, two systems”. Xia Baolong, head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, recently reaffirmed that the National Security Law and improvement of Hong Kong’s electoral system are both aimed at ensuring that the exercise of “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong continues steadfastly and exactly as it was intended to.

While the US government have imposed sanctions against several officials of the central government and SAR government, accusing them of “compromising Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the measures failed to bring real benefit and the initiators were met with reciprocal sanctions from China. The reality is that leading separatists have called it quits early on, fled overseas or awaiting trial for their suspected law-breaking acts

Safeguarding national security is the right and responsibility of any sovereign state and a top priority of the administration. In China’s case, it is the constitutional right and responsibility of the Central People’s Government. The Basic Law, in respect to the uniqueness of “one country, two systems”, stipulates in Article 23 that the HKSAR shall enact national security laws through local legislation. The HKSAR has not been able to fulfill this constitutional obligation over the years, leaving a gaping loophole in national security that prompted the central authorities to draft a security law for application in the HKSAR instead.

The extradition law amendment bill proposed by the SAR government in March 2019 was intended to facilitate the handover of criminal fugitives between jurisdictions. To assuage concerns, the legislation improved on its flaws after public consultation to include explicit safeguards against abuse. But the bill was used as an excuse by anti-China forces to smear and slander the SAR government as well as the central authorities. They lost little time in launching an illegal campaign that soon turned violent, forcing the SAR government to shelve the bill and eventually withdraw it. However, the rioting did not stop but escalated instead, with separatist groups openly calling for “liberating Hong Kong” through a “revolution of our times”; only then did the public realize they were experiencing the Hong Kong version of “color revolutions”. The separatist groups in Hong Kong went so far as to mount a three-pronged offensive on the “Legislative Council front”, the “street front” and “international front”, aimed at achieving “regime change” in Hong Kong and undermining China’s national security.

It proved at tremendous cost that Hong Kong’s failure to complete national security legislation according to the Basic Law put the “one country, two systems” principle at unprecedented risk. It was a crisis waiting to happen. And it happened as a part of the US global strategy with China as a rival if not archenemy. Today, the US has forced its allies to gang up in an attempt to contain China’s peaceful rise through a significant weak point that is Hong Kong.

The Basic Law is a constitutional document by design and establishes the constitutional order of the HKSAR, but it does not provide a detailed mechanism for upholding the constitutional order. For instance, the Basic Law stipulates the HKSAR is obligated to safeguard national security, but it contains no specific mechanism for the fulfillment of this constitutional obligation. That means the HKSAR must make its own laws for the purpose, as provided in Article 23 of the Basic Law.

Nearly four years ago, on July 1, 2017, President Xi Jinping emphasized in his speech at a ceremony in Hong Kong marking the 20th anniversary of the HKSAR that, while maintaining the constitutional order established by the Constitution of the PRC and the Basic Law of the HKSAR, we must ensure the central government exercises its constitutional authority while the HKSAR fulfills its constitutional responsibilities as an organic whole; constantly improve the system and mechanisms of implementing the Basic Law of the HKSAR; and enhance the education of Hong Kong society, especially civil servants and the young people, to increase their awareness of the Basic Law of the HKSAR as well as the country’s Constitution. “Improve the system and mechanisms of implementing the Basic Law” concerns national security, as the Basic Law lays out the principle of protecting national security without specifying the methods for its implementation.

The National Security Law is designed to implement the Basic Law, with a set of mechanisms to do so. The National Security Law covers secession, subverting the State power, terrorist acts and colluding with foreign or external forces to harm national security, with proper punishments to measure. It is a comprehensive legislation with features of a criminal law, a procedural law and an organic law, prescribing a complete set of enforcement mechanisms to tackle threats to national security in the HKSAR.

Luo Huining, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR, attended a public event observing National Security Education Day on April 15 in Hong Kong, where he noted in his keynote speech that on social media some local residents likened the National Security Law and improving Hong Kong’s electoral system to a “sharp sword” and “strong shield” respectively, which will safeguard the social stability and prosperity of the city for many years to come. “I agree with their analogy completely,” he said.

Steps taken by the Hong Kong Police Force to enforce the National Security Law since its promulgation have won overwhelming public support. While the US government has imposed sanctions against several officials of the central government and SAR government, accusing them of “compromising Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the measures failed to bring real benefits, and the initiators were met with reciprocal sanctions from China. The reality is that leading separatists have called it quits early on, fled overseas or are awaiting trial for their suspected lawbreaking acts. The trial of Benny Tai Yiu-ting and dozens of others who orchestrated the unauthorized “35-plus primary election” last July after the National Security Law took effect should send a clear message that no excuses, however glorious, can justify crimes against national security.

The author is a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Think Tank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.