Chief executive says legislation is within purview of central authorities
Hong Kong's top officials and community leaders have thrown their support behind a decision by the nation's top legislature to introduce a national security law for the city.
They said the move was necessary and within the purview of the central authorities in light of the often-violent protests that have hit Hong Kong for almost a year.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests was the constitutional requirement of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the duty of the Hong Kong government, and also in the interests of residents.
"Legislation on national security is undoubtedly within the purview of the central authorities. Just as it is in any other country in the world, it is the authority of the country to legislate on its own national security,"Lam said in a statement on Friday.
She said the Hong Kong government will do its part to safeguard the national interest by "fully cooperating" with the proposal, which will be put to the 13th National People's Congress for review.
NPC deputies will deliberate on a draft decision to add a national security law in Annex III of the Basic Law of Hong Kong. The resolution is expected to be put to a vote by members of the NPC next week.
Article 18 of the Basic Law stipulates a national law listed in the annex shall be applied by way of promulgation or local legislation. The national security law will be enacted through promulgation, according to the draft decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for Hong Kong to safeguard national security.
Leung Chun-ying, a vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said it was "absolutely necessary and legitimate" for the NPC to close the legal loopholes to safeguard the national interest.
In the 1980s, Leung served as secretary-general of the Basic Law Consultative Committee that was established to canvass views in Hong Kong on the drafting of the city's Basic Law.
He said Article 23, which stipulated the city enact its own national security legislation to prohibit any acts that endanger national security, such as treason and sedition, was written into the Basic Law because there was no existing or specific law that could adequately safeguard national security.
It has been 23 years since Hong Kong returned to China, but there is little chance the city will enact a national security law any time soon, Leung said.
The legal loopholes were highlighted by a spate of violent protests since June that quickly morphed into an anti-government movement.
A joint statement by 41 legislators said Hong Kong had suffered a great deal with Article 23 being held in abeyance since 1997.
The escalating separatism and local activism in recent years, some overtly in defiance of the central government and in collusion with external forces, were all acts that gravely endangered national security, they said.
Legislative Council member Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, a former Hong Kong security secretary, said it is an "unquestionable priority" for a sovereign state to enact a national security law.
The United States, for instance, has been strengthening its national security with additional laws and regulations in recent years.
Ip, chairwoman of the New People's Party, said as a special administrative region under "one country, two systems", Hong Kong cannot continue to be the "weakest link" that poses a threat to the security of the nation.
Otherwise, "one country, two systems" will not be able to continue, she warned.
Business leader Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Holdings, said every civilized country, including the US and United Kingdom, has similar laws to protect their national security.
The intention of the national security legislation is to make Hong Kong stronger and this is necessary to protect the city from outside interference, Zeman said.
He said the general public should not worry about the legislation if they were not going to break the law.
Gu Mengyan, Chen Zimo and Kathy Zhang contributed to this story.