Chinese state media on Saturday reported details of the impending Beijing-imposed national security legislation in Hong Kong, which raised concerns over threats to the city’s autonomy and judicial independence. The National People’s Congress’ (NPC) draft said the chief executive would have the power to appoint judges to adjudicate national security cases and the NPC would be able to interpret the law when it comes into conflict with the Basic Law, according to Xinhua News Agency.

HKFP has rounded up reactions to the revelation from Hong Kong government officials, pro-Beijing figures, local and international politicians, as well as activists and law experts.

national security carrie lam press
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee and the six disciplined services chiefs – the Commissioner of Police Chris Tang, Commissioner of Customs and Excise Hermes Tang, Director of Fire Services Joseph Leung, Commissioner of Correctional Services Woo Ying-ming, Director of Immigration Au Ka-wang and Controller of the Government Flying Service Wu Wai-hung – on Sunday released a statement expressing full support for the draft law.

Secretary for Security John Lee

“Each country has its national security laws and specific enforcement agencies. It is the duty of every responsible government to have such laws. Safeguarding national security and the rule of law in Hong Kong is the cornerstone to maintain One Country, Two Systems, ensuring the long-term stability and safety of Hong Kong.

People can enjoy a peaceful life, society restores peace, people’s livelihood and the economy resume development, and Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability are preserved.”

Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng

“The explanatory statement clearly points out that the HKSAR, in safeguarding national security, should respect and protect human rights and freedoms which are applicable in Hong Kong under the Basic Law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The provisions should be able to address public concerns. I will lead the department of justice to provide full support to the legislative work for safeguarding national security in the HKSAR.”

Beijing loyalist and Standing Committee of the NPC member Tam Yiu-chung

“Beijing places trust in the SAR government in all aspects, from law enforcement to judiciary. To a large extent [the law] protects human rights, as it only takes aim at a minority of the population… The legislation is mostly compatible with features of common law… The draft has been consolidated with opinions from all sectors of Hong Kong society.”

Law scholar and member of the NPC’s Hong Kong Basic Law Committee Albert Chen

“The national security law is not only criminal legislation. It is also setting up a crucial system and bureau to safeguard national security… Under the One Country, Two Systems constitutional framework, if the One Country baseline is upheld, Hong Kong as one of the Two Systems has unlimited room to develop.

If the One Country principle is ensured under the law, One Country, Two Systems will enjoy a bright future. We, especially the youths, who consider Hong Kong to be our home, should have confidence and hope for the future.”

Pro-Beijing New People’s Party

“The New People’s Party think the [National People’s Congress’] explanation can address concerns with regards to the national security law. We hope the NPC can complete the drafting of the legislation and announce the details as soon as possible, in order to curb all illegal activities endangering national security, encouraging Hong Kong independence and subverting the political regime.

Then peace and order in Hong Kong society will be restored and [the law] will facilitate the city’s long-term stability, as well as the thorough implementation of One Country, Two Systems framework.”

Pro-democracy Civic Party

“The Civic Party reiterates its opposition against the national security law. The clauses are not yet official but have already put every individual at risk. It will have an unprecedented detriment to One Country, Two Systems and our judiciary. It is as if a sword has been driven through Hong Kong’s administrative body and judiciary, which contravenes the spirit of judicial independence.

We urge Hongkongers not to draw a line and instead, persist in defending the truth as well as resisting authorities until the end.”

Hong Kong Bar Association Chair Philip Dykes

“You can’t be slightly independent any more than you can be slightly pregnant. You’re either independent or you’re not… You’re picking a judge for a contest in which you have an interest… It raises a lot of questions … God knows how they will be selected,” he told Reuters.

Human rights researcher Patrick Poon

“The details mean that it’s really the end of not only One Country, Two Systems, but also really the end of Hong Kong’s autonomy and judicial independence.

The international community needs to respond to such [an] arrangement more strongly than ever. It will be a disaster for everyone if Beijing’s interference in Hong Kong’s affairs is not effectively countered with real international pressure.”

Benedict Rogers, Hong Kong Watch

“The early details of Beijing’s proposed national security law for Hong Kong are deeply concerning.

Long prison sentences proposed for still undefined ‘offences.’

The international community must now unite and come down hard on the Chinese Community Party, with maximum pressure.”

Hong Kong Watch

“The law fundamentally compromises One Country, Two Systems, and [is a] breach of the handover agreement. The details emerging put human rights in jeopardy.

It is particularly concerning that when discrepancies arise between the new law and [the] Basic Law, this law will supercede.”

Hong Kong Democracy Council

“[The national security law] clearly targets upcoming [Legislative Council] elections – ‘anyone running or holding public office must sign a document pledging allegiance to Chinese and Hong Kong laws’ which WILL include this new [national security law].”

Demosisto activist Joshua Wong

“The national security law is the end of Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms since Beijing is imposing an authoritarian legal system upon the city’s liberal common law system. Under this draconian law, China reserves its exclusive powers.

It [will override] local courts’ interpretation and rulings, supervise [the] Hong Kong government’s policing, collect intelligence and intervene in Hong Kong affairs directly. Beyond any doubt, the law will punch a hole in the city’s independent judicial system.

When Beijing is sinking its claws over the city, Hong Kong protesters are calling for a withdrawal of this evil law to safeguard Hong Kong’s autonomy and liberties, protect the safety of civil society and business community in the city.

We wish to ensure our next generations can continue to live in freedom, but not in fear. With the city’s freedoms on the brink of collapse, we are defending our slight glimmers of hope for the city’s liberty with our bare hands.

The forthcoming legislative election is a vital testing ground for the scope of China’s authoritarianism over this island, since Beijing has already paved ways to disqualify pro-democracy runners that do not support the national security law.

Fighting for a majority in the legislative council, we are not just blocking Beijing’s tyrannical interference through the legislative process, but also showing our determination to stand up against the regime’ reign of terror, especially in the era of autocratic expansion.

In this David versus Goliath battle, I call upon the world to safeguard the city’s vanishing liberty and urge China to withdraw this sweeping law. This is not just a fight for Hong Kong, but also a fight for the universal democratic values that democracies all cherish.”

Meanwhile, on Hong Kong’s Reddit-like LIHKG forum, some netizens said they hoped the announcement would prompt the US to retaliate. Earlier, users aired their support for reports that the US may impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China officials and advocated the “mutual destruction” in order to achieve their goal of democratisation.

“KIDS DON’T FIGHT,” user on LIHKG forum

[The US] may have turned a blind eye before the coronavirus pandemic but the game has changed. Americans really want to scrap the US-Hong Kong Policy Act, not for Hongkongers, but to fill a gaping hole. It was American businesspeople in Hong Kong who were preventing [the US] from doing so. With the enactment of the [national security law], no one will be in the way. It is what Hongkongers have been asking for. The time has come.

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.