Beijing will set up a “legal and enforcement mechanisms” in Hong Kong to safeguard national security, Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday. The remark came a day after the central government announced plans to discuss enacting national security law in the city following almost one year of pro-democracy protests.

At the third annual session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC), Li said China would “fully and accurately” implement the policy of One Country, Two Systems and a high degree of autonomy in Hong Kong and Macau. China will also step up efforts to defend national security in the two special administrative regions through improving the legal framework.

Li Keqiang. Photo: Xinhua video screenshot.

“We will establish a sound legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security, and for the SAR governments to fulfil their constitutional responsibilities,” Li said as he delivered a report on the government’s work.

Li also expressed opposition against Taiwan “separatism,” saying that such acts should be contained. China will continue to promote “reunification” with the island-nation, he said.

At a press conference on Thursday, NPC spokesperson Zhang Yesui said the NPC is to discuss drafting a decision on “Establishing and Improving the Legal System and Enforcement Mechanisms for Hong Kong to Safeguard National Security” at a plenary session on Friday.

While the agenda details yet to be announced, pro-Beijing paper Bastille Post cited sources as saying that the Standing Committee of the NPC will be authorised to draft laws for Hong Kong covering secession, foreign interference, terrorism and subversion against the central government.

It would be similar to Article 23 of the Basic Law, which has been shelved for 17 years after attempts to pass the legislation in 2003 triggered mass protests.

A banner against Article 23 security law. Photo: HKFP/Ellie Ng.

The US Department of State has said Washington would condemn any effort to enact national security law and that such a move would be destabilising.

“Any effort to impose national security legislation that does not reflect the will of the people of Hong Kong would be highly destabilising, and would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the international community,” Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.

Meeting reporters at Hong Kong’s legislature on Friday, Legislative Council President Andrew Leung said he “respected, understood and supported” the NPC’s decision to add the national security law to Annex lll of the Basic Law. He said it was within the committee’s rights, “enshrined” in the country’s constitution.

“National security is the bedrock underpinning the well-being of people of the People’s Republic of China… this is in line with the interest of the country and Hong Kong society as a whole,” he said.

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Meanwhile, the pro-Beijing New People’s Party said in a statement that the city has a constitutional duty to defend national security.

“Over the past year, there have been all kinds of violence, terrorism and separatism with a hint of subverting the country and the SAR government, but Hong Kong lacks the legislation to tackle it,” the statement read. “Therefore, the New People’s Party supports the country in taking the initiative to enhance national security and perfect One Country, Two Systems.”

Hong Kong saw large-scale protests since last June over a now-axed extradition bill. The unrest escalated into sometimes violent displays of dissent against police behaviour, amid calls for democracy and anger over Beijing’s encroachment.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.