Chief executive contender John Tsang has said that he hopes legislation for a national security law can be completed by 2020.
His election platform published on Monday put the legislation of the Article 23 of the Basic Law as one of his top items. Its enactment failed in 2003 following mass protests. Tsang said it is a constitutional responsibility and that there was no reason for any more delay.
He suggested it should be done in the form of a white bill, which involves consulting the public about how a law should be enacted. The method was proposed by democrats in 2002 but was rejected by the government.
At a press conference, he also proposed a committee led by renowned legal professionals to form the bill: “Under a very transparent process, I believe we can find a proposal that we can all agree on.”
Tsang said that, since the Legislative Council’s current term ends in 2020, the variables in pushing the law forward may increase in a new legislature, thus he hoped to complete the work before then.
“The time between the new administration starts and the end of the LegCo term is just a little more than two years, the time is short – whether we can push forward this depends on the progress,” he said.
Tsang also vowed to restart the political reform process to introduce universal suffrage for the chief executive and the legislature. He said at the press conference that reform, and the legislation of Article 23, could start at the same time.
But he did not mention in his platform his position on the Beijing decision in 2014 which insisted that chief executive candidates must be vetted by a nomination committee largely controlled by Beijing.
In response, Tsang said the decision cannot be avoided and “must be the foundation” of reforms. Political reforms made under the decision’s framework failed in 2015. Tsang said the consultation exercise would have been better conducted within a more harmonious society.
“If we have the opportunity to communicate with all relevant figures across the political spectrum, we believe we can obtain a good consensus and reflect it truly to the central government. I believe they will have a correct judgment,” he said.
“I very much believe that, if we have universal suffrage, many things can be pushed forward in a smoother way.”
Tax and buildings
Tsang was also asked if his proposal of a progressive profits tax – under which small and medium enterprises may pay less – would affect the economy. He said that there is an international trend whereby governments are lowering taxes, referring to the policies of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump.
“Such move will benefit the business environment in short and medium term,” he said.
Under his platform, Tsang proposed redeveloping old industrial blocks within rezoned commercial areas into commercial buildings. Some of the buildings have already been converted to other uses.
He told reporters the government needs to offer incentives to private property owners so that they will support the plan.
He denied the plan was only benefiting businesses: “It is absolutely not the case. We do need to find an appropriate balance where both sides benefit.”
Tsang said he believed the Chinese Renminbi will one day be liberalised and become convertible, when asked about his platform point about the RMB being used as a reserve and settlement currency.
Asked how is he different from incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, Tsang said he hoped he can show, if elected, that his governing team is a trustworthy and capable one, and that they work according to rules and with high transparency.
Tsang said he did not know many details of the disappearance of mainland billionaire Xiao Jianhua from Hong Kong.
“But if there were anything that is illegal according to Hong Kong Law, we will pursue it rigorously,” he said. “Currently I think it is prescribed quite clearly in the Basic Law what the responsibilities are for each one of the agencies that are stationed in Hong Kong.”
In response to reports that Chinese state leader Zhang Dejiang was meeting with electors in Shenzhen, Tsang said he did not know the details, but he expected they would understand Hong Kong better through the trip.