The Hong Kong government has rebuked concerns from foreign politicians over Beijing’s plan to impose national security laws in the city, calling it “alarmist speculation.”
It came after a chorus of international criticism of China’s National People’s Congress decision to draft a law prohibiting secession, sedition and subversion in Hong Kong. The controversial laws may be directly inserted into the annex of the city’s mini-constitution, bypassing the local legislature. Washington has, in response, threatened sanctions and the suspension of trade and economic privileges under the 1992 US-Hong Kong Policy Act.
Beijing’s unprecedented move amounts to a hardline response to months of sometimes violent protests over diminishing freedoms and police behaviour.
Democracy advocates have warned that new security laws would sound the death knell for One Country, Two Systems, as the govermment confirmed that mainland Chinese security agencies will be set up in the city.
But Hong Kong authorities hit back against criticism on Sunday evening, saying it was nothing more than “innuendo” and disregarded the constitutional reality of the city as an “inalienable” part of China.
“Every country has a right, and indeed a duty, to protect national security and sovereignty,” a spokesperson said. “To suggest that our sovereign, China, does not have the right to legislate to protect national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region smacks of double standards and hypocrisy.”
‘Nothing to fear’
The government attempted to assuage fears over a crackdown on political expression, saying the proposed legislation would only affect a minority who break the law.
“The proposed law will only target acts of secession, subversion, terrorist activities as well as activities interfering with HKSAR’s internal affairs by foreign or external forces,” they said. “The vast majority of law-abiding Hong Kong residents, including overseas investors, have nothing to fear.”
Chief Executive Carrie Lam has repeated claims that the protests have been buoyed by foreign forces, though she in January admitted she had no conclusive evidence.
And, after steep losses on Friday, stocks in Hong Kong continued to dive during Monday’s morning session.
In a series of back-to-back separate statements on Monday morning, government officials and departments appeared to display a unified front by doubling down support for the central government after the head of legislature voiced his approval last Friday.
Secretary for Security John Lee, Commissioner of Customs and Excise Hermes Tang, Commissioner of Correctional Services Woo Ying-ming and Commissioner of Police Chris Tang all expressed an urgent need to safeguard the city against public “disorder.”
Both the police chief and Lee highlighted protest signs and calls for “Hong Kong independence” that were spotted at Sunday’s unauthorised demonstration.
“Facing the riots and extreme separation forces of ‘Hong Kong independence’ stemmed from the social incidents against the extradition bill, police deeply realised that Hong Kong is at the risk point of national security and there is a need to take effective measures to prevent the situation from deteriorating,” Tang said.