HONG KONG • China's new top official in Hong Kong has urged the city to enact national security legislation, raising speculation that Beijing might renew its push for a Bill that prompted mass protests almost two decades ago.
Mr Luo Huining, who was appointed earlier this month to lead China's Liaison Office in Hong Kong, wrote in the People's Daily, the Communist Party's newspaper, that "external forces will infiltrate China without inhibition" if the city failed to pass such legislation.
He cited the neighbouring former colony of Macau and its adoption of a strict national security law as a model.
His commentary was carried on the ninth page of the printed People's Daily, a placement that would suggest the issue was one of lesser priority by the traditions of the party's top mouthpiece.
Still, the comments could stoke fears among Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp that China is looking to tighten its grip on the city after months of historic unrest.
While Mr Luo did not specify what legislation Beijing wanted passed, he described the action as Hong Kong's constitutional obli-gation, suggesting that he was referring to national security measures required by Article 23 of the city's Basic Law.
The Hong Kong government has not made a serious effort to pass such legislation since 2003, when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in opposition.
Mr Luo's comments on Monday came after Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said it was her government's duty to advance a law banning insults of the Chinese national anthem.
Pushing forward with either Bill could provoke a backlash from the city's protesters, who have turned out with less frequency in recent weeks.
Fresh protests on Sunday shattered a brief lull in violent demonstrations over Christmas and ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, following a large demonstration early last month.
Mrs Lam's efforts to ignore dissenting voices and push through a Bill allowing extraditions from Hong Kong to mainland China had ignited the protests in June, which have since battered the city's economy into a recession and undermined the financial hub's global reputation.
Article 23 of the Basic Law - sometimes referred to as Hong Kong's mini-Constitution - requires the enactment of national security legislation that would prohibit the theft of state secrets, sedition and subversion against China's national government.