Executive Council convener Bernard Chan has said that he does not know of any timetable from Beijing for enacting a national security law in Hong Kong. It follows reports claiming that the central government requested that Chief Executive Carrie Lam enact the controversial legislation before her term ends in 2022.
A Now TV political show and a Ming Pao political column both cited unnamed sources as saying that, a few months ago, Beijing asked Lam to complete legislation for Article 23 of the Basic Law within her term. The last attempt at passing the law failed in 2003 amid mass protests.
Citing unnamed sourced, both outlets also suggested Beijing had asked Lam to submit a report on banning the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party as a possible preliminary step to prepare for the potential legislation.
But Bernard Chan, also a delegate to the National People’s Congress, said he had never heard of such a request from Beijing or any timetable.
“Of course, legislation of Article 23 is a requirement in the [Basic Law], and we have yet to find a right time for this over the years. But I have absolutely never heard of a strict target whereby we must do it this year,” he told reporters during the annual plenary session in Beijing.
Chan said he understood the issue is sensitive, as residents would be concerned about freedom of expression.
“I think we will face the same issues again when we start the legislation in the future. It is better to discuss these issues with residents sooner, but we know that we may trigger residents’ concerns when we talk about this issue. The chief executive will have to find the right timing.”
Ip Kwok-him, another Executive Council member and National People’s Congress delegate, said Beijing has always wanted Hong Kong to enact the national security law as soon as possible.
He said the government has enough votes to pass the law, but the legislation should only be done after the government cleared public concerns over the law.
“The government has to work on it, and cannot just wait for an opportunity,” he said in Beijing.
Democratic Party Chair and lawmaker Wu Chi-wai said his party would not support national security law legislation before universal suffrage is achieved in Hong Kong.
“It will only make Hong Kong lose its place as an international city and our values,” Wu said.
He said he was concerned that those who want to run as the next chief executive may end up promising to pass the national security law simply to please Beijing.