HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong's top legal administrator said on Thursday (June 18) that the city's government will highlight to Beijing the importance of prosecuting cases locally, even after a senior Chinese official said he wanted the mainland to oversee certain cases under looming national security laws being imposed on the financial hub.
Asked if she would push back against Beijing on any aspect of the legislation before it was forced on the city, Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Thursday that the Hong Kong government would be consulted and she would try and uphold the rule of law.
"The Basic Law Committee and the Hong Kong government will be consulted, and so at that stage we'll do the best we can to convey concerns," Ms Cheng said, referring to a group that advises Beijing on interpreting or amending the city's mini-constitution.
"I am definitely standing up for the rule of law in Hong Kong," she added. "It is very important that a Hong Kong person committing a crime here, arrested here, should go through the prosecutorial process with the Department of Justice taking control under the Basic Law and, of course, before our judiciary in Hong Kong. We will do everything we can to uphold that."
Ms Cheng, who said she did not know the details of the legislation and that "your guess is as good as mine" on when it would be implemented, made her comments as Hong Kong citizens and the US await the as-yet unknown details of the sweeping new laws China is implementing in the former British colony.
China's move to ban subversion, secession and foreign interference, announced in late May by its officials, has already worsened fraught US-China tensions and prompted the Trump administration to threaten retaliation if Beijing pushes ahead.
There are growing concerns about the scope of the laws after a top Chinese official said this week the central government wanted to prosecute certain "rare" national security cases on its own - a move that could see Hong Kong residents subject to mainland China's opaque justice system.
A pro-government Hong Kong figure who sits on the Standing Committee of China's legislature, the National People's Congress - which announced the new law - said the city's citizens could also face extradition to the mainland for trial, an explosive issue that could ignite more unrest.
The security legislation has reignited pro-democracy protests after months of unprecedented and often violent demonstrations rocked Hong Kong last year, triggered by opposition to a since-scrapped Bill that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has defended the new security laws, including through the use of prominent billboards in the Asian financial hub. Ms Cheng has been one of its more vocal defenders in media interviews and in a detailed official blog post.
"I can say categorically that it's going to be very good for Hong Kong," Ms Cheng said Thursday. "It will bring about stability in Hong Kong. It's going to be something that Hong Kong will need and will benefit from."
Beijing has argued that the laws are necessary following the Hong Kong government's failure to implement constitutionally mandated national security laws under Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini constitution. A push to implement those laws in 2003 prompted widespread protests, and the process was halted.
"Why do we need it? Because of exactly what happened in the last six months of 2019," Ms Cheng said.
A majority of Hong Kong residents have said they oppose the security laws, according to one poll, though pro-government politicians say they have amassed roughly 2.9 million signatures in support of the legislation.