Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said there is no timetable for the legislation of the national security law.

It came after remarks by the director of Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong at a forum on national security on Sunday. Wang Zhimin claimed Hong Kong was the only place in the world without any national security law legislation. At the same forum, Lam said that Hongkongers have a vague idea of national security.

Lam said on Tuesday that society may not have actively pushed forward with an understanding of national security, as many linked it only to defence: “[They think] Hong Kong has no military function, so Hong Kong does not have to worry about, or care about national security.”

Carrie Lam. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The forum’s goal was to clear such a misunderstanding, she said.

“However, [the forum had] no direct relationship with Article 23 of the Basic Law,” she said, referring to the law that Hong Kong failed to enact in 2003 amid mass protests. “Till now, there is no timetable on legislation in Hong Kong to perform the constitutional duty in Article 23 of the Basic Law.”

Article 23 stipulates that the government shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central government. The government has always had enough votes to pass the law, but it has never been raised since the 2003 debacle. Pro-democracy advocates fear it could have a negative effect on civil liberties.

Focus on economics

Lam restated her stance that there has to be a suitable social atmosphere before legislation takes place. She said the social atmosphere had become relatively peaceful over the past ten months, and it was not an easy task for the government.

“I believe we should use this situation to focus on our economic opportunities, such as the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area,” she said.

Protest against Article 23 on July 1, 2003.

Asked if there was pressure from Beijing to enact the law, Lam said: “I have not felt any pressure. It is the government’s constitutional duty to conduct the local legislation of Article 23 of the Basic Law. We will have to do it regardless if there is pressure. But to do this, we have to pick a right time.”

“You asked me if we will be more active to create the suitable conditions – I think I have already been doing this since I took office on July 1 [last year].”

Basic Law seminars

Meanwhile, Qiao Xiaoyang, who recently retired as chairman of the Law Committee of the National People’s Congress, will visit Hong Kong later this week to attend two seminars on the Basic Law, including one for officials and top civil servants.

Qiao Xiaoyang. Photo: NPC.

Lam said she invited Qiao a while ago as she knew he was retiring, and it has nothing to do with recent events.

“I did not invent such seminars. Past administrations have held seminars on national affairs, and a variety of current or retired officials had been invited as speakers,” Lam said.

In recent weeks, the local and central governments have attacked academic Benny Tai after he made hypothetical remarks about Hong Kong independence at a forum in Taiwan.

Kris Cheng

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.