"The proposed legislation, once approved, would provide the legal basis for concrete actions to check the escalation of violence in the SAR, and expedite the restoration of public order."
In a move that's neither surprising nor unexpected, China's National People Congress has allowed its standing committee to craft legislation that would strengthen national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).
The proposed legislation, once approved, would provide the legal basis for concrete actions to check the escalation of violence in the SAR, and expedite the restoration of public order.
As a recent editorial in the China Daily pointed out: "There is nothing untoward in this as all countries attach the utmost significance to national security, and the introduction of such a law will safeguard the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong." It added that "security and stability are the necessary foundation for development and prosperity."
Article 23 of the Basic Law of the HKSAR prohibits “any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets" as well as "foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the region." It also prohibits "political organizations or bodies of the region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.”
At the same time, Articles 27 and 29 of the Basic Law guarantee the rights of citizens to freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; of association, assembly, procession and demonstration and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions and to strike; as well as rights under various international political, social, cultural and labor conventions.
Will the latter provisions be upheld by the new national security law now under consideration by Beijing?
That, of course, remains to be seen.
But those who favor the passage of the new national security law argue that no less than an eminent British barrister, Lord David Pannick QC, when asked by the HK Department of Justice of Hong Kong in 2002 to determine whether an earlier proposed legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law was consistent with accepted rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, freedom of association, as well as other rights protected by Articles 27 and 29 of the Basic Law, replied in the affirmative.
Pannick confirmed in his report that he is “satisfied that the contents of the proposals are consistent with human rights law.” He also emphasized that “if and when the enacted provisions are applied, it will be essential to ensure that the application is consistent with fundamental freedoms on the specific facts of the individual case.” He further assured that “none of the provisions set out are objectionable as a matter of legal principle.”
Beijing considers the Hong Kong SAR an inalienable part of China. Hence, it looks at the rise of secessionist rallies in the city as totally unacceptable, convinced that these are being fanned by foreign powers lurking in the shadows.
Another China Daily editorial sums up the official stand of the Chinese government on the issue.
"The draft decision of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, to enact a law to fix a national security loophole in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a long overdue move.
"Safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, together with ensuring the SAR's long-term prosperity and stability, is the very intention and philosophy of "one country, two systems". It is the SAR's constitutional responsibility, rather than an option at its discretion, to safeguard national security and territorial integrity by enacting a national security law according to Article 23 of the Basic Law."
The editorial concludes: "The enactment of a national security law by the NPC, which is applicable to the HKSAR, will in no way affect the faithful and complete implementation of 'one country, two systems'... Safeguarding national security and territorial integrity is part of the original purpose of this political framework; and the nation's Constitution and the HKSAR Basic Law uphold the central authorities' power and duty to do this job."
As I see it, Beijing wants to finally put an end to the protest rallies in Hong Kong as allowing these to gather steam once again—as what happened just last Sunday—would undermine its authority under the "one country, two systems" in place since 1997 to last until 2047. It simply cannot afford to have an independent Hong Kong to add to its problem in its eastern flank—Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province, but which insists it will never agree to reunification with the mainland.
At the same time, the implementation of a national security law for the HKSAR at this time should probably be done after consultation with the broad range of the Hong Kong population, with the objective of uniting them behind the need for such a law.