Hong Kong has earmarked HK$8 billion for non-recurrent spending on national security despite facing a projected fiscal deficit of HK$101.6 billion in the coming financial year.
There are so far no details of what the money will be spent on and it was not mentioned in Financial Secretary Paul Chan’s address to legislators on Wednesday to present the 2021-22 budget.
The expenditure was mentioned in a budget document, as a revised estimate for “non-recurrent appropriation to a special fund to meet the expenditure for safeguarding national security,” earmarked for the year 2020-21. It comes as Chan cut welfare and warned Hongkongers not to expect too many “sweeteners.”
In comparison, the city’s police force are set to receive about HK$25 billion in funding for the coming fiscal year, an increase of HK$1.8 billion from the current one.
The document does not specify whether the sum will be allocated to various national security departments amongst the city’s disciplined forces, or to the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong.
The national security law was imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing last June 30 and – so far – almost 100 people have been arrested under the legislation, which outlaws secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts. Offences are punishable by up to life imprisonment.
The legislation provides that the Financial Secretary can, upon approval by the Chief Executive, “appropriate from the general revenue a special fund to meet the expenditure for safeguarding national security and approve the establishment of relevant posts… in the coming years,” a footnote to the document states.
When asked by Citizen News and Stand News during an afternoon press conference, Chan refused to give details but said the sum was not new: “Of this HK$8 billion, it’s enough to last for a few years,” he said. “It is inconvenient to discuss further.”
Chan denied the sum was deliberately “buried” in the budget, since it was previously earmarked: “[The amount] has already been spent. As provided by the national security law, the amount has already been allocated. The amount was stated in the government’s quarterly allocations, and is absolutely open,” he said. “There will be no new allocation for the coming fiscal year, which was why it was not mentioned in the address.”
Chan did not answer when journalists asked if he “loved the party” after a top official said this week that public officers must be loyal to Beijing.
The Security Bureau — which oversees the police force and its national security department — sent no representatives to an information session for media before the budget was presented on Wednesday. The press was not able to ask any question related to security or national security expenses.