The Hong Kong government has honoured a former police chief and officers responsible for cracking down on last year’s pro-democracy protests. As part of Thursday’s China National Day festivities, the chief executive has also said that the national security law has helped restore stability to the city.

The government said that retired police chief Stephen Lo was awarded the Gold Bauhinia Star for maintaining Hong Kong as “one of the safest and most stable societies in the world.”

Photo: GovHK screenshot.

“Throughout his career, Mr Lo has demonstrated high integrity, strong commitment to serve as well as outstanding capabilities and leadership skills. His contribution is highly regarded both within and outside the Government,” the announcement read.

Lo retired last November 18 amid allegations of police misconduct and was succeeded by Chris Tang. Lo was among the 11 top officials sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in August. The US said that over 4,000 protesters were arrested and 1,600 injured under his leadership and he “engaged in activities to prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly in Hong Kong.”

Two British assistant police commissioners – David John Jordan and Rupert Dover – were also awarded the Chief Executive’s Commendation for Government/Public Service for their “outstanding contribution in relation to the handling of social incidents.”

Additionally, dozens of police officers injured during the protest operations are awarded the Medal for Bravery (Silver) for their acts of “tremendous courage, selflessness, commitment of duty, professionalism and gallantry of an extremely high order.”

See also: China approves arrest of Hong Kong ‘speedboat fugitives’ as 2 face more serious charges

Meanwhile, the Legislative Council (LegCo) President Andrew Leung was among the five recipients of the Grand Bauhinia Medal – Hong Kong’s top honour. The government said Leung had been managing the LegCo “in a robust, yet principled, manner”

Andrew Leung. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“Mr Leung always strikes a right balance between respecting the rights of individual LegCo Members to express their views and ensuring the orderly, efficient and fair handling of the businesses of LegCo,” the government said.

During Leung’s tenure, several elected democrats were disqualified, physical rucks broke out in the chamber and – last July – protesters broke in and vandalised the complex. Back in 2017, Leung gained new powers to control proceedings and restrict pro-democracy lawmakers.

Security law hailed

Thursday marks both National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival for the city. A flag-raising ceremony was held at Golden Bauhinia Square at 8am behind a banner that read: “Joint Development. Shared Prosperity,” to celebrate the 71st anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

At the National Day reception, Chief Executive Carrie Lam echoed the remarks of Beijing’s Liaison Office Director Luo Huining on Wednesday, saying that the national security legislation helped restore stability. Lam added that a safe and stable social environment was quintessential for resolving economic challenges and satisfying citizens’ demands for livelihood and democracy.

Chief Exec. Carrie Lam’s speech in full – click to view.

Distinguished guests, fellow citizens,

     I am very pleased to celebrate National Day with you, which this year coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival. With the easing of the third wave of the epidemic that has plagued our city since early July, members of the public have gradually resumed work and students have returned to school. We can all celebrate these special occasions with relatives and friends while strictly observing social distancing and other precautionary measures.

     The year 2020 has presented mankind with an unprecedented public health crisis. As of today, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide has exceeded 33 million while the death toll has sadly reached one million. With the exception of China, the epidemic situation around the globe shows no signs of abating and is even rapidly worsening in some places, dealing a heavy blow to various sectors and industries and resulting in rising unemployment. It seems we have some time to go before we can emerge from the economic doldrums.

     On the other hand, by vigorously suppressing and strictly controlling the epidemic, our country has already regained its economic momentum. In the first half of this year, there was a “V-shaped” rebound in China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter with a growth rate of 3.2 per cent after a sharp drop of 6.8 per cent in the first quarter. This has made China a rare bright spot among major economies and has shown once again the shift of the global economic focus from the West to the East.

     The success of our country’s anti-epidemic work did not come easy. As we saw from TV reports, in order to curb the spread of the virus, our compatriots in the Mainland stayed at home and strictly followed all the rules; cities were locked down; medical and healthcare staff worked round-the-clock to treat patients; supply and support teams acted as one to fight the virus. As President Xi Jinping said at a ceremony commending role models in China’s fight against COVID-19 on September 8, the fight against the epidemic was a race against time and a battle that required resolute courage and unwavering determination.

     Over the past nine months, the Central Government has been paying great attention to the epidemic situation in Hong Kong and has responded positively to requests from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government, including supplying personal protective equipment, exporting mask production machines, assisting Hong Kong residents stranded in the Mainland and overseas to return home, and supporting three major projects to help Hong Kong suppress the third wave of the epidemic and enhance our capability to treat more patients in future. With the full assistance of the Central Government, the large-scale Universal Community Testing Programme was successfully completed in mid-September, while construction of a temporary hospital and a community treatment facility has also commenced.

     The Central Government’s assistance to Hong Kong in fighting the epidemic demonstrates, once again, that it has always given Hong Kong its full support in overcoming various difficulties and challenges since our return to the Motherland. Other examples include support rendered to ride out and overcome the serious threats to Hong Kong’s financial stability posed by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the life and health risks and economic recession caused by the 2003 SARS outbreak, and the negative impact of the 2008 global financial tsunami.

     Apart from creating a safe haven for us in times of turmoil, and giving us a shot in the arm when needed, the Central Government has also leveraged Hong Kong’s role in planning and taking forward the country’s overall development and has actively promoted exchanges and co-operation between Hong Kong and the Mainland. The work of the current-term Government is an example. In the past three years, thanks to the support of Central Government leaders and the co-ordination of relevant ministries, the HKSAR Government has signed over 90 co-operation agreements with the Mainland. Strategically important ones include the “Framework Agreement on Deepening Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Cooperation in the Development of the Greater Bay Area” signed with the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the governments of Guangdong and Macao in July 2017; the “Arrangement between the NDRC and the Government of the HKSAR for Advancing Hong Kong’s Full Participation in and Contribution to the Belt and Road Initiative” signed with the NDRC in December 2017; the “Arrangement on Enhancing Innovation and Technology Cooperation between the Mainland and Hong Kong” signed with the Ministry of Science and Technology in September 2018; the “Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters by the Courts of the Mainland and of the HKSAR” signed with the Supreme People’s Court in January 2019; and the “Agreement Concerning Amendment to the CEPA Agreement on Trade in Services” signed with the Ministry of Commerce in November 2019. All this shows that the Central Government always gives us strong backing and helps maintain Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability, whether Hong Kong is facing good times or bad, difficulties or opportunities.

     To help extract Hong Kong from our economic predicament, we must create new engines of economic growth with the continued support of the Central Government. We have to help Hong Kong’s professional services sector and enterprises target business opportunities in the Mainland market and capitalise on Hong Kong’s unique role as a connector to the world under the development model of “domestic and international dual circulation” propelled by our country. The HKSAR Government will participate more actively in the drafting of the outline of our country’s 14th Five-Year Plan, and will seek the Central Government’s support to strengthen and enhance Hong Kong’s status as an international financial centre and a global aviation hub. We will also take forward the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area at full steam and deepen our work with Shenzhen in developing an international innovation and technology hub.

     Having gone through the social unrest arising from the legislative amendment exercise of the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance in mid-2019, and having implemented the National Security Law in mid-2020, we should see very clearly that if we are to keep Hong Kong moving forward, overcome economic challenges, and meet pubic aspirations for improved livelihoods and democracy, we must have a safe and stable social environment, adhere to the “One Country” principle, safeguard national sovereignty and security, correctly understand the relationship between “One Country” and “Two Systems”, and act in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law. Over the past three months, the plain truth is and it is obvious to see that stability has been restored to society while national security has been safeguarded, and our people can continue to enjoy their basic rights and freedoms in accordance with the law. So, no matter how severe some foreign governments, holding “double-standards”, are going to level unjustified accusations against the authorities in charge of implementing the National Security Law, or aggressively imposing further sanctions against HKSAR officials responsible for safeguarding national security, I and my relevant colleagues will continue to discharge our duty to safeguard national security in accordance with the law without fear or anxiety.  

     I believe that as long as we uphold the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and the Basic Law wholeheartedly, work together to seize the opportunities presented by our country’s new development model, communicate in a sensible way and find common ground among differences, we can certainly make Hong Kong, our home, an even better place.

     May I wish our country continued prosperity and progress, Hong Kong social harmony and stability, and everyone a happy National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival.

“We stand firm on the principle of One Country, safeguarding the safety of our country’s sovereignty. We should precisely control the relationship between One Country and Two Systems, and act in accordance with the constitution and the Basic Law.”

Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK screenshot.

Lam also slammed the recent US sanctions and said her government will continue to fearlessly fulfil their obligation to safeguard national security amid unreasonable accusations from foreign governments.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

Long Hair demo

Meanwhile, Leung Kwok-hung “LongHair,” Raphael Wong and several other activists of the League of Social Democrats marched from Wan Chai’s Family Planning Association headquarters to the area around Bauhinia Square ahead of the flag-raising festivities.

Photo: LSD.

They held a banner that read: “No national celebration, just national mourning. Call to account June Fourth crackdown. End one party rule. Release all political prisoners. Murdering political regime stinks for a thousand years. Heroes of the people live on forever.”

Despite the police ban of the Civil Human Rights Front march, there have been online calls for city-wide demonstrations in the afternoon.

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Rachel Wong

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.