The Hong Kong government will legislate the city’s own security legislation “as soon as possible,” Hong Kong’s newly-inaugurated Chief Executive John Lee has said, without giving a direct answer as to whether the legislation of Article 23 will be completed this year.
Lee, in a press briefing ahead of his first Executive Council (ExCo) meeting on Tuesday, said that his administration also had to consider whether the legislation “could actually deal with the most serious national security risks.”
The chief executive did not directly answer a reporter’s question about whether the legislation would be completed in the first year of his administration, or during his five-year term.
“I have also said that I hope, when we are legislating, the law will be able to deal with all anticipated problems, and hope that there will not be any further amendments,” said Lee.
“That is why this serious and cautious attitude requires us to conduct an all-rounded legal study.”
Lee added that recent measures protecting national security taken by different countries were also “worthy of reference.”
Article 23 of Hong Kong’s Basic Law – separate from the Beijing-imposed national security legislation – stipulates that the local government shall enact its own laws to prohibit acts of treason, secession, sedition or subversion against the central government. Its legislation failed in 2003 following mass protests as democrats feared it would curtail civil liberties.
The demonstrations, which organisers say attracted over half a million people, and led to the resignation of then-secretary for security Regina Ip. Ip is now head of Lee’s advisory team.
The city’s three top officials and 16 ExCo non-official members also attended the press briefing alongside Lee on Tuesday.
The chief executive thanked the ExCo members for accepting his invitation to join the advisory group, and said that he believed that Ip, the council’s convenor, would be “effective” in fulfilling her duties, as she had “rich administrative and legislative” experience.
Ip said that ExCo began its work on Monday, and that she promised to provide “the best advice” to Lee over the coming five years.
Lee also said that he had instructed the secretary for health to look into “options for him to consider” on how the duration of hotel quarantine for incoming travellers should be handled.
The chief executive also said that the city “must continue to keep the pandemic under control,” as an increasing number of cases would mean more pressure on hospital services.
“So it is important to find a good method based on science and evidence to reduce inconvenience to people, who should be allowed to go about their normal activities, once we have identified to be people who are not infected,” said Lee.
Hong Kong has reported 1,254,011 Covid-19 infections and 9,405 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic over two years ago.