Legislating Hong Kong’s own security law would be “one of the priorities” of his administration, chief executive hopeful John Lee said on Tuesday.

“Article 23 of course is one of the priorities because it is a constitutional duty. I think the current-term government has indicated that position, my position is the same,” said the former chief secretary after meeting with Election Committee members from the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association during his campaign trail.

John Lee meeting the press after seeing election committee members from the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association on April 12, 2022. Photo: John Lee 2022, via Facebook.

Article 23 of the city’s Basic Law – which is different from the Beijing-imposed national security law – stipulates that the Hong Kong government shall enact its own laws to prohibit acts of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against the central government.

The first attempt to pass Article 23 was overseen by former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa’s administration and took place from 2002 to 2003, sparking a protest of more than 500,000 people, and leading to the resignation of then-secretary for security Regina Ip.

Current Secretary for Security Chris Tang said in February that the government planned to begin consultation efforts on Article 23 in May.

On May 8, Hong Kong will see its first chief executive race since a sweeping overhaul of the city’s electoral system last year.

Candidates will have to undergo security vetting, and the city’s next leader will be chosen by the Election Committee, whose 1,462 members were vetted by a committee led by Lee.

‘One can also write to us’

Lee, who resigned from the government and announced his bid to run in the small-circle chief executive election last week, met with 10 pro-establishment political groups on Monday.

Several parties, including Liberal Party, New People’s Party, and DAB, have since expressed their support for the 64-year-old.

Lawmaker Regina Ip (left) meeting with chief executive hopeful John Lee (right) on April 11, 2022. Photo: Regina Ip, via Facebook.

Lawmaker Ip, who is the chairperson of New People’s Party, handed her nomination form to Lee along with four other legislative councillors on Monday.

When asked by reporters on Monday whether he would meet with groups from the pro-democracy camp, Lee said that he “would consider listening to anyone’s opinion,” but there were time constraints.

“We would consider listening to anyone’s opinion, but in reality, because there is a time constraint, there are different ways to listen to views, apart from video conferencing and in-person meetings, one can also write to us. In fact, a lot of different people have written to us expressing their views,” said Lee.

Most of Hong Kong’s prominent pro-democracy figures have either been detained, are in self-exile, or have stepped down from the local political scene following the implementation of the national security law.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.