Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said it would be difficult to start legislating the controversial national security law within the next 12 months.

Discussion of the ill-fated legislation, which failed in 2003 after mass protests, was reignited after a top Chinese official said that the “adverse effects” of not having such a law have been widely observed.

“I did not even put it in the internal or external agenda… for 2018, because it is not work that can be done in a short time,” she said in an interview with public broadcaster RTHK.

Carrie Lam
Carrie Lam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

She said she will need to create the right atmosphere for the legislation in terms of the political and economic climate.

“You can see that the current administration has a new style of governance – we are more tolerant, more willing to listen, more caring,” she said, adding that a good economy could also help create the right environment.

“But it is more difficult to complete [legislation of Article 23] than it is to achieve universal suffrage. Universal suffrage seems to be a universal value, but I don’t know why many people including the media see Article 23 of the Basic Law as a monster… we should take the negative label off and un-demonise it.”

Asked if she was concerned about criticism from the public and from Beijing if she is not able to enact the law within her term, she said she could try her best but cannot control the result.

Lam was praised by Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing after she coordinated seminars on the 19th Communist Party National Congress given by a top party official in Hong Kong.

Carrie Lam Xi Jinping
Carrie Lam’s duty visit to Beijing meeting Xi Jinping. Photo: GovHK.

Asked if Hong Kong’s top officials should learn more about the party as well as learning about the country, Lam said it was not easy to separate the two: “The vision and ideal of the ruling party must be linked to the country’s development.”

Lam was also asked whether she would fulfill all of Beijing’s requests without refusal. “I have to be accountable to Hong Kong SAR and the central government. But that does not mean I will do whatever I am told. The acthing to do is to act after deep consideration, so that it is in line with public interest – with the interests of the country and the interests of Hong Kong people.”

“If the central government asks me to do something that I believe Hong Kong people cannot bear, or that is not beneficial to Hong Kong’s development, I have the responsibility to tell the central government and fight for a better arrangement.”

She was also asked about top officials’ frequent travel to Beijing. Lam said they were not making trips on Beijing’s orders but on hers. She said the frequent trips were necessary to foster good relationships, which are needed if officials are to fight for Hong Kong’s interests in the mainland.

“If you think they are going [Beijing] too often, it is my fault, not the central government’s. Sometimes I suspect the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office may think we come too often,” she said.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.