Published: 10:10, April 2, 2024 | Updated: 13:02, April 8, 2024
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Smear campaigns can not overshadow the truth about city’s ordinance
By Sunny Tan

Facing a complex and ever-changing global environment, Hong Kong has been vulnerable to being exploited by some foreign forces and politicians with ulterior motives as an entry point for their strategies against the Chinese mainland.

After the passage of the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance (Article 23 legislation) in Hong Kong, some foreign governments, politicians and media outlets smeared the legislation with false and misleading allegations. For example, some countries issued “travel advisories” and claimed that travelers coming to Hong Kong may face increased risks. All those allegations are completely unfounded and biased without any factual basis. 

In general, national security laws are a crucial element in safeguarding national security, protecting the fundamental interests of the people, creating more favorable conditions for economic development and a stable working and living environment, promoting common security, and maintaining peace. The law targets only those engaged in activities that endanger national security. For visitors to Hong Kong and businesses operating in Hong Kong, national security laws in general serve as a protection of stability.

Legislation on national security is not unique to Hong Kong. In fact, it is common practice and a widely accepted legal arrangement in the international community.

For example, the United States has at least 21 national security related laws, the United Kingdom has at least 14, Canada has at least nine, Australia has at least four, and Singapore has at least six. 

Countries that have their own national security laws but keep making misleading and erroneous remarks against the Article 23 legislation simply expose their hypocrisy and double standards.

For instance, in July 2023, the UK Parliament enacted a new National Security Act. Under the new act, the secretary of state can apply to the courts for an arrest warrant if there is “reasonable belief”’ that a person may be involved in a “foreign power threat activity”. Such a person can be detained for up to five years. The court does not need to notify the person that they may be arrested and put on trial, or provide them with an opportunity to defend themselves when considering issuing such an order. The UK’s attacks on the Article 23 legislation reek of double standards.

Foreign politicians’ and media outlets’ claims of “the use of broad and vague definitions” in the Article 23 legislation are unwarranted. During the vetting stage at the bill committee at the Legislative Council, the secretary for justice clearly described the elements of the crimes, noting that the law targets acts that endanger national security with precision while protecting individual rights and freedoms. He emphasized that the Article 23 legislation follows international standards on human rights, as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In contrast, the definitions of “national security” and what actions constitute “undermining national security” in the UK’s National Security Act are extremely vague.

Since the implementation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL) in June 2020, Hong Kong has returned to normalcy with peace and order restored. People can enjoy their daily lives without any threats or fear, demonstrating the benefit of having national security laws in place. The new ordinance, together with the NSL, will form a comprehensive framework for national security protection, ensuring the city’s long-term stability and boosting confidence in its business environment.

Last month, the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises signed up a second batch of strategic enterprises, which together with the first batch committed to invest more than HK$40 billion ($5.1 billion) in Hong Kong over the next few years; and a memorandum of understanding on regional cooperation was signed by the textiles and garment industry. Last week (March 28-30), the international mega arts event Art Basel Hong Kong attracted numerous local and international visitors and exhibitors, generating huge economic value for Hong Kong. The presence of a large international community in Hong Kong is a vote of confidence in the city’s future.

While the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has rightly rebutted the West’s smear and scaremongering campaign against the new national security law and should continue to do so, it should now refocus on socioeconomic development. One of the urgent tasks is to tap into new overseas markets, such as those along the Belt and Road, by leveraging the city’s unique advantages underpinned by the motherland’s full support and the city’s global connectivity under “one country, two systems”. It should also actively promote the integration of the city’s development with national development. Hong Kong society as a whole should also actively present a true picture of Hong Kong’s success under “one country, two systems”.

The author is a Legislative Council member, Functional Constituency (Textiles and Garment).

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.