Beijing’s top official in Hong Kong has urged the city to step up its efforts in safeguarding national security by strengthening legislation and enforcement, while pro-China figures echoed support for the enactment of Hong Kong’s controversial national security law.
Speaking in a video message on Wednesday, Luo Huining – director of the central government’s liaison office – said the city’s system for safeguarding national security is “inadequate.” He claimed foreign forces have “deeply interfered” in Hong Kong affairs, and urged the city to enhance its legal system and enforcement mechanism to avoid becoming a breach for national security risks.
“[I] believe all friends who love the country and Hong Kong would come to this consensus. What needs to be formulated should be formulated. What needs to be amended should be amended. What needs to be activated should be activated. Hong Kong must not become a national security breach,” Luo said.
Luo did not provide evidence of any foreign interference, but said there should be “zero tolerance” towards the large-scale protests that broke out last June. He said the unrest involved “radical, violent crimes” and caused a “serious disruption to Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”
“If an ‘anthill’ that erodes the rule of law is not eliminated, the ‘grand dam’ of national security would be destroyed, harming the well-being of all citizens in Hong Kong,” Luo said.
Luo’s message was among other video messages delivered by top Hong Kong government officials and pro-Beijing figures on the annual National Security Education Day on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam described the large-scale protests sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill last June as “extremist” and “near-terrorist” acts, which would threaten national security if escalated.
Lam said the Hong Kong government had a constitutional responsibility to protect national security, which also concerned the interests of Hong Kong citizens.
“The HKSAR government would firmly safeguard Hong Kong’s safety and stability. This is not only being responsible for the HKSAR, but also to the Central People’s Government,” she said.
Lam added national security also covered areas in public health and finance. She said the government had responded to the coronavirus outbreak promptly and transparently, while the financial system in Hong Kong is still in orderly operation.
Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying, meanwhile, expressed concern over an alleged lack of awareness among Hongkongers about the city’s international relations.
Leung said the opposition camp in Hong Kong had developed close ties with countries in the West after the handover in 1997. The opposition had become a “pawn” for countries like US and the UK to compete with China, he said, citing the visit to the US by media tycoon Jimmy Lai last July, when the pro-democracy figure met Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss the extradition bill.
“The vital part of national security is political safety, and the key to political safety is people’s awareness and alertness,” said Leung, adding that Hong Kong is the “most open, free and international city” in China, with a high degree of autonomy.
Another pro-Beijing figure Maria Tam said behaviours in opposition to the central authority have become increasingly evident in recent years, quoting the Umbrella Movement in 2014 and independence activists who took part in the Legislative Council and District Council elections.
The vice-chairperson of the Basic Law Committee of Hong Kong said that society should support the passing of Article 23 of the Basic Law, so that the Hong Kong government can fulfil its constitutional duty.
Article 23 of the Basic Law stipulates that the Hong Kong government shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central government. Its legislation failed in 2003 following mass protests. 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.
“Even if Hong Kong cannot complete the legislation of Article 23, it should still firmly enforce laws based on existing legislation and suppress behaviours that encourage independence,” said Tam. “Hong Kong cannot become an undefended area in terms of national security.”