Published: 00:57, April 15, 2024 | Updated: 01:05, April 15, 2024
PDF View
‘Holistic national security concept’ matters in HK
By Lau Siu-kai

April 15 is National Security Education Day and marks the 10th anniversary of the advent of the “holistic national security concept”. For Hong Kong, it is particularly gratifying that the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance (the legislation on Article 23 of the Basic Law) was passed unanimously by the Legislative Council in March and received popular and wholehearted support from society. This demonstrates Hong Kong residents’ determination to safeguard national security and their disdain for the external forces that have posed risks to national security and attempted to obstruct the legislative process.

Lau Siu-kai mugshot.jpg

It can be said that by now Hong Kong has, by and large, established a complete set of laws and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security, with the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL) and the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance as the core. In future, Hong Kong will also have to formulate new laws and create new enforcement mechanisms in response to changing needs to safeguard national security to ensure that the city will never become a hidden danger and threat to national security. From a higher perspective, “one country, two systems” and “patriots administering Hong Kong” have been fully and accurately implemented in Hong Kong since this year and will continue to be pursued in the long run and beyond 2047.

Consequently, Hong Kong has been able to accelerate its integration into the overall development of the country in an environment where national security is guaranteed. Under these auspicious circumstances, all parties in society must seize the opportunity to generate additional momentum for growth and utilize Hong Kong’s unique advantages to contribute more to Chinese-style modernization and the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

However, more than legal and institutional protections are required to build an impregnable rampart to safeguard national security. Hong Kong residents must enhance their awareness of national security regarding cognition, emotion, and responsibility. The central government, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, and patriotic forces must chart strategic policies, make careful arrangements, and do an excellent job of pushing national security education to a new level and making it an essential part of Hong Kong’s patriotic education.

Only when the “holistic national security concept” becomes common political sense in Hong Kong can the city become a solid rampart to safeguard national security

This is also Hong Kong’s constitutional responsibility, national obligation, and moral commitment to the country. Article 11 of the National Security Law of the People’s Republic of China, passed on July 1, 2015, stipulates, “maintaining national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity is the common obligation of all Chinese people, including compatriots in Hong Kong and Macao”. Article 40 also stipulates, “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the Macao Special Administrative Region should fulfill their responsibilities in safeguarding national security.”

Because of various historical and political reasons, most Hong Kong residents’ national security awareness is relatively meager, which allowed the anti-China insurrectionists in Hong Kong and external hostile forces to alienate many Hong Kong residents from their motherland and impair their relationship with the country for a long time after Hong Kong’s return to the motherland.

Those anti-China forces tirelessly instigated unrest and riots in the city against the central government and the HKSAR government. They turned Hong Kong into a base of subversion, considerably endangering national security. To allow themselves to unscrupulously disrupt Hong Kong, hostile forces at home and abroad tried every means to obstruct the Article 23 legislation, making its completion “a mission impossible”. They had also successfully blocked the implementation of national, patriotic, and national security education. It is terrible that they prevented many Hong Kong residents, especially young people, from feeling that they have an undeniable responsibility for safeguarding national security as Chinese citizens.

However, even though “formal” national security education was absent in Hong Kong after the 1997 handover, the momentous changes inside and outside Hong Kong over the past decade have played an essential and influential role in promoting national security education. The United States’ and the West’s efforts to denigrate, isolate and contain China have made Hong Kong residents feel that the country is indeed facing severe national security threats. Hong Kong has also become a threat to national security as it has been used by hostile forces, both internal and external, as a pawn against the Chinese mainland.

The information revealed during the trial of former media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying has made more Hong Kong residents realize that hostile forces at home and abroad have conspired for a long time to endanger national security and Hong Kong’s stability. More and more Hong Kong residents understand that the city’s well-being and ill-being are inseparable from those of the motherland, and their sense of a shared destiny with their mainland compatriots has become more robust.

Hong Kong residents have experienced one period of turmoil after another in the past 10 years or so. The unprecedentedly huge damage inflicted on Hong Kong by the “black-clad” rioters, or the Hong Kong version of a “color revolution” in 2019-20, still haunts Hong Kong residents, who know from personal experience the consequences of jeopardizing national security.

As Hong Kong alone was incapable of ending the turmoil, the central authorities had no alternative but to take the initiative to implement the NSL, allowing Hong Kong to restore stability and order, rendering it impossible for internal and external hostile forces to cause trouble in Hong Kong again.

The central authorities’ moves have made Hong Kong residents aware of the necessity of laws safeguarding national security for Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, as well as for the continuation of “one country, two systems”. It is precisely because of this “novel” understanding and experience of national security that the legislative work of Article 23, which has been in limbo for 27 years, was completed last month without encountering “storms and waves”.

However, although the national security awareness of Hong Kong residents has improved recently, given that national security risks remain amid a precarious global geopolitical landscape, improving the national security awareness of Hong Kong residents is still an urgent task, especially in establishing a good understanding of the “holistic national security concept” among residents.

According to my observation, many Hong Kong residents’ understanding of national security remains confined to the traditional national security dimension, and their knowledge of nontraditional national security is quite limited. Some people even believe that since the motherland has become so powerful, it should not encounter any security threat. Hong Kong residents’ limited national security awareness is understandable since nontraditional national security threats are novel for many Hong Kong residents.

However, developments around the world have shown that nontraditional national security threats have become even more severe and frequent than traditional national security threats. In the new international situation, Hong Kong must focus on nontraditional national security in future national security education.

Traditional national security threats refer to military, political, and diplomatic threats that endanger the survival and development of sovereign states. Nontraditional insecurity includes ecological and environmental insecurity, resource insecurity, weapons proliferation, the spread of diseases, transnational crimes, drug smuggling, illegal immigration, piracy, and money laundering.

In recent years, the US has increasingly, under the pretext of safeguarding national security, weaponized finance, trade, energy, foreign aid, data, communication networks, and technology. It is quite possible that it intends to threaten the security of other countries, especially China, through nontraditional means of insecurity. The reason nontraditional national security threats are becoming increasingly severe is closely related to globalization in the past few decades. Globalization has engendered closer connections between countries in all aspects and brought about an increasing degree of interdependence.

This has allowed certain countries that enjoy superior status and power or are located at the center of various networks, especially the US, to exploit other countries’ dependence on them. They use threats to force other countries to submit to their will and do their bidding.

The “holistic national security concept” advocated by General Secretary Xi Jinping embodies a deep and complete appreciation of China’s various national security threats in the complex, volatile, and severe international situation, especially nontraditional national security threats.

The key to the “holistic national security concept” is “holistic”. The idea of holistic security encompasses many fields, including politics, military, land, economy, finance, culture, society, technology, networks, food, ecology, resources, nuclear, overseas interests, space, deep sea, polar regions, biology, artificial intelligence and data, with nontraditional national security threats accounting for the majority.

For Hong Kong to assume the important responsibility of safeguarding national security more effectively, Hong Kong residents’ in-depth understanding, recognition, and support of the “holistic national security concept” must be substantially raised while promoting national security education.

The “holistic national security concept” education should be implemented in schools, the HKSAR government leadership team, the civil service, the judiciary, the legal profession, and society as a whole. The effectiveness of implementation should be an essential indicator to gauge the effectiveness of the HKSAR government’s governance and the achievements of the political arrangement of “patriots administering Hong Kong”.

Only when the “holistic national security concept” becomes common political sense in Hong Kong can the city become a solid rampart to safeguard national security. With this kind of political common sense, Hong Kong can more easily formulate new laws and mechanisms to safeguard national security in response to future threats to national security.

In any case, Hong Kong, as an international city with a high degree of openness, is more vulnerable to nontraditional national security threats, such as cyber and financial attacks, than any city on the mainland. This is something Hong Kong residents must bear in mind and be vigilant against. The government must promote education on the “holistic national security concept”.  

The author is a professor emeritus of sociology, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a consultant for the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.