Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said that the government will “fearlessly take action” against independence calls and will listen to views on implementing a national security law.

Article 23 of the Basic Law stipulates that the city has to enact the national security law on its own, but the previous legislation failed in 2003 following mass protests. Lam on Wednesday that she will “explore ways to enable the Hong Kong society to respond positively to this constitutional requirement.”

Carrie Lam holding a copy of her 2018 Policy Address. Photo: GovHK.

During her policy address speech at the legislature, she said that the Hong Kong government has the constitutional responsibility to enact the law in order to safeguard national security: “I have stated publicly for a number of times that the Government will carefully consider all relevant factors, act prudently and continue its efforts to create a favourable social environment for the legislative work.”

See also: Reviving Article 23 (Part I): The rise and fall of Hong Kong’s 2003 national security bill

“Yet, it does not suggest that we will turn a blind eye to the acts of violating the [Chinese] Constitution and the Basic Law, attempting to secede from the country and endangering national security; or our existing laws will be put aside and never be applied to deal with certain acts that should be prohibited.”

“This issue has aroused extensive public concern and intense discussion on the legislation for Article 23,” Lam said. “I will listen to these views earnestly and explore ways to enable the Hong Kong society to respond positively to this constitutional requirement on the HKSAR.”

Photo: Facebook/Hong Kong National Party.

Lam mentioned the ban of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party citing the Societies Ordinance, saying that it represented “strong testimony” to the government’s policy.

“I will not tolerate any acts that advocate Hong Kong’s independence and threaten the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests… We will fearlessly take action against such acts according to the law in order to safeguard the interests of the country and Hong Kong.”

Trade war

Democratic Party lawmaker James To said Lam’s remarks on using existing laws to handle national security matters set off a “very worrying trend,” putting Hong Kong on the radar amid China’s ongoing trade war with the US.

“This will bring real and imminent danger to Hong Kong’s status and special privilege under the Hong Kong Policy Act of America. It will also drag Hong Kong into the core of the dispute of the two countries,” he said.

The US has criticised the banning of the Hong Kong National Party, saying that it was inconsistent with the core freedoms promised under the Basic Law.

Leaders of the Democratic Party and the Civic Party have said that the national security law should only be enacted when there is progress in the political system towards universal suffrage.

“She only used several lines to deal with our demand for universal suffrage – it shows that she does not intend to do anything. I don’t see any actions from the chief executive to create a better environment to move the political system forward,” Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung said.

Government staff give out copies of the 2018 Policy Address. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip said she did not believe Lam’s remarks changed the government’s stance on Article 23 in any fundamental manner.

“But naturally, I think the chief executive signalled that she has a duty to prepare the ground, and so [she] will take appropriate measures to strengthen national awareness,” she said.

Ip said the national security law was “not a monster” and Lam would have adequate wisdom in choosing when will be the best timing to enact the law.

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.