Beijing has announced details of the draft decision on Hong Kong’s national security legislation, saying the “defenceless” city needs state-level law to “prevent, stop and punish” threats to Chinese sovereignty.

Wang Chen, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), explained the decision on  “Establishing and Improving the Legal System and Enforcement Mechanisms for Hong Kong to Safeguard National Security” at a plenary session on Friday.

Wang Chen
Wang Chen. Photo: China Network Television screenshot.

Wang delivered a document which stated that Hong Kong has to step up its law enforcement power, and strengthen enforcement work to defend national security. The Central Government’s national security agencies can also set up organisations in Hong Kong-based on needs and fulfil relevant duties.

See also: ‘This is the end of Hong Kong’: Reactions pour in as Beijing proposes security law

“Necessary measures must be taken – in accordance with the law – to prevent, stop and punish foreign and overseas forces using Hong Kong to conduct separatist, subversion, infiltration and damaging behaviour,” the document read.

The chief executive should expand promotion and education on national security, to prohibit behaviour that would threaten the country’s safety, and submit a report to the central authorities regularly, the document stated.

The NPC Standing Committee vice-chair said the policy of One Country, Two Systems has been “seriously challenged” since large-scale protests erupted last June over a now-axed extradition bill.

liaison office july 21 china extradition
Photo: May James/HKFP.

He claimed anti-China forces had advocated Hong Kong independence, citing incidents where the national flag and emblem were defaced, and Beijing’s agencies in the city were surrounded during the protests. He accused “foreign forces” of supporting the anti-China groups, which jeopardised Chinese sovereignty.

See also: Investors flee: Hong Kong stocks battered by Beijing’s national security proposal

“Safeguarding the national sovereignty, unification and territorial integrity is the constitutional responsibility of the HKSAR. The HKSAR should complete legislation for safeguarding national security as soon as possible, as stipulated in the Basic Law,” the draft read.

The relevant law would be added to Annex III of the Basic Law and be implemented in Hong Kong. Critics have slammed Beijing’s plan as enacting the controversial Basic Law Article 23 through the “back door.”

article 23 protest rally benny tai free speech
Photo: Cloud.

Article 23 of the Basic Law stipulates that the government shall enact laws on its own to prohibit acts of treason, secession, sedition and subversion against Beijing. Its legislation failed in 2003 following mass protests and it was not tabled again until after the onset of the separate, Beijing-imposed security law in 2020. Pro-democracy advocates fear it could have a negative effect on civil liberties.

See also: Beijing to set up ‘enforcement mechanisms’ in Hong Kong to protect national security, as head of legislature voices support

Earlier, China expert Bill Bishop said the rule of law was under threat: “This move affirms that Hong Kong as we knew it is gone and rule of law is now rule by law, with the CCP determining what the laws are and how they will be enforced. The legal complexities of how they justify imposing this law from Beijing will not get in the way of the brutal political reality. The reaction in Hong Kong could be intense, and violent,” he wrote in his Sinocism newsletter.

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.