Hong Kong far from declaring emergency powers, says official

Hong Kong's freedoms remain far greater than those that exist on the mainland, where the Communist Party ultimately controls many aspects of society, including the media and the courts.
Hong Kong's freedoms remain far greater than those that exist on the mainland, where the Communist Party ultimately controls many aspects of society, including the media and the courts.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING • Hong Kong is a long way from having to declare emergency powers or having to ask the Chinese military to intervene, a senior official with China's Parliament and pro-Beijing Hong Kong politician told Reuters, as months of protests showed no sign of abating.

Ms Maria Tam, deputy director of the Chinese Parliament's Basic Law Committee, told Reuters in Beijing late on Thursday that emergency legislation was not something for which Hong Kong's government would have to ask Beijing's permission.

"The emergency legislation is something that is left behind by the colonial British government. It's nothing to do with the Basic Law. It's entirely in the power of the highly autonomous region," said Ms Tam, referring to the mini-Constitution under which Hong Kong has been ruled since its 1997 return to China.

"At the moment, there are still plenty of tools. We have different Articles in the Police Force Ordinance and Articles in the Public Order Ordinance which we can still invoke to control the situation," she added.

"We haven't got to the stage when we really have to engage in enacted laws by the Chief Executive with the Executive Council to, for example, enact anti-mask or interception of Internet messages. We're quite a distance from that."

Hong Kong has been engulfed in increasingly angry protests against the government since mid-June, sparked by a now-suspended extradition Bill and concerns that Beijing was trying to bring the territory under greater mainland control.

South China Morning Post reported that Hong Kong airport is prepared to cut the number of arriving and departing flights in response to plans by protesters to create a gridlock in the road and rail infrastructure serving the airport tomorrow and on Monday.

Ahead of the fresh protests expected this weekend, subway operator MTR got a court injunction against anyone interfering with train operations, damaging property or causing disturbances.

Meanwhile, officials in Taiwan demanded yesterday that China disclose information about the disappearance of Taiwanese man Lee Meng-chu, who reportedly distributed photos of Chinese troops massing equipment just outside Hong Kong.

REUTERS, NYTIMES, ASSOCIATED PRESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2019, with the headline 'HK far from declaring emergency powers, says official'. Print Edition | Subscribe