Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said her government will “fully cooperate” with Beijing’s plan to enact national security laws in the city, while stating that the legislation will not affect the “legitimate rights and freedoms” of Hong Kong people.
In a statement issued on Friday, Lam said the draft decision announced at the third session of 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) was against the background of an “increasingly serious situation” faced by Hong Kong in terms of national security.
The Hong Kong leader pointed the finger at the large-scale protests which broke out last June, originally over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. She said the escalating violence had posed a risk of “terrorism” to the city and “seriously jeopardised public safety.”
Lam went on to accuse pro-Hong Kong independence groups of “inciting” young protesters to deface the national flag and emblem publicly, as well as mobilising international support to “interfere” with the city’s affairs. She also cited some lawmakers’ calls on overseas governments to impose sanctions on Hong Kong, slamming their actions as “smearing” the implementation of One Country, Two Systems.
“This kind of behaviour has crossed the baseline of “One Country”, sabotaging the relationship between the Central People’s Government and the HKSAR, threatening China’s sovereignty and national security and challenging the authority of the Central Authorities and the Basic Law,” Lam said.
‘Defenceless’ Hong Kong
The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) shared the chief executive’s view that Hong Kong is facing an “increasingly severe” situation in safeguarding national security. The agency said Hong Kong had many shortcomings and was not equipped with the power and authority to defend national security.
Together with Article 23 of the Basic Law being “stigmatised and demonised” – leaving it to be shelved for almost 23 years – the city has been put in a “defenceless” position, the office said.
“As the facts have indicated, when [a] national security loophole is wide open, the entire society will pay a painful price,” the HKMAO spokesperson said in a statement on Friday.
Lam backed the NPC’s proposal to include national security laws in Annex lll of the Basic Law, saying that it was “undoubtedly within the purview of the Central Authorities.”
She added the decision would not amend the Basic Law, nor replace or repeal Article 23 in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which allows the city to make laws to ban actions that they see as endangering national security.
“In other words, the HKSAR still has the responsibility to complete legislation for Article 23 of the Basic Law as soon as possible,” she said.
Both Lam and the HKMAO said the national security law would not affect the “legitimate” rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong people under the law. The city’s independent judicial system and high degree of autonomy would also remain unchanged, they said.
Lam added once the legislation is passed by the NPC Standing Committee, the Hong Kong government would get in on the act to complete the legislative process.
“After the passage of the Decision, the HKSAR Government will fully co-operate with the Standing Committee of the NPC to complete the legislation as soon as possible to discharge its responsibility of safeguarding national security to ensure the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong under “One Country, Two Systems,” she said.
At a press conference later in the evening, Lam said that the plan would offer businesses a stable environment, as she said that Friday’s stock market dive was part of the usual “ups and downs.”
“Hong Kong will remain to be a very free society where freedoms of protests, freedom of journalism will stay,” she said, flanked by top officials.