HK security law long overdue, says representative to Beijing

Activists marching in Hong Kong on Friday in protest against Beijing's proposed national security law for the city. Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-Constitution, the city is obliged to pass a national security law, but lawmakers have desisted s
Activists marching in Hong Kong on Friday in protest against Beijing's proposed national security law for the city. Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-Constitution, the city is obliged to pass a national security law, but lawmakers have desisted since a 2003 attempt to pass such a Bill brought half a million people out onto the streets. PHOTO: NYTIMES
Mr Stanley Ng, a Hong Konger who has represented Hong Kong at the National People's Congress since 2012, said the city's political impasse made intervention by Beijing necessary.
Mr Stanley Ng, a Hong Konger who has represented Hong Kong at the National People's Congress since 2012, said the city's political impasse made intervention by Beijing necessary.

City among few lacking such a law, making it a 'lawless' place, he says

A national security law for Hong Kong is long overdue because the financial hub remains one of the few places in the world without any such legislation, and the city's political impasse made intervention by Beijing necessary, a National People's Congress (NPC) representative said.

Trade unionist Stanley Ng, a Hong Konger, told The Sunday Times he has been key in lobbying for the item to be presented to the NPC in Beijing. "Hong Kong is possibly the only place in the world that doesn't have a national security law, which makes Hong Kong a lawless place," he said.

Referring to the protests that rocked the city for most of last year, he said: "There were forces both within and without. Local opposition parties and some foreign forces have been working together to undermine 'one country, two systems'… and tried to start a colour revolution, leading to such violence and chaos."

An attempt at passing a controversial extradition Bill last year - which would have allowed fugitives to be handed over to mainland China - triggered protests that brought millions onto the streets. The Bill was eventually rescinded.

Beijing argues that foreign forces encouraged the unrest, and the proposed new law will ban foreign interference in the city's political affairs, as well as any acts that subvert the state's powers.

Mr Ng insists the central government's intervention was necessary.

"Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo), for some time now, has been in a state of paralysis… there's been disruption to proceedings and the government's work," he said, accusing pro-democracy legislators of "demonising" the national security law. "Whether in society or in LegCo, and even the government's will to pass this law has been flaky, so this situation has forced the NPC to intervene."

Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-Constitution, the city is obliged to pass a national security law, but lawmakers have desisted since a 2003 attempt to pass such a Bill brought half a million people out onto the streets.

On Friday, a draft resolution was tabled to China's top lawmaking body and will be discussed this week before being put to a vote.

Its passage is almost certain, and would force Hong Kong to enact national security laws. The details would be fleshed out by the Standing Committee of the NPC, which could meet as early as next month.

Of particular concern is a line in the draft that states that "relevant national security organs" can set up units in Hong Kong, raising fears of Chinese security agencies operating openly in the city.

 
 
 

Beijing and its supporters say the law will help restore peace and prosperity to the city.

Since Hong Kong's return to China, the former British colony has been governed under the "one country, two systems" principle, guaranteeing a high degree of autonomy for at least 50 years, including an independent judiciary, a separate legislature and free speech.

There are fears that such freedoms are quickly eroding and the passage of national security legislation would turn Hong Kong into simply another Chinese city.

These are unfounded fears and the more Hong Kong integrates with the Greater Bay Area, the more the city's residents can benefit from China's prosperity, said Mr Ng, a Communist Party member who has represented Hong Kong at the NPC since 2012.

But it is almost certain that once the legislation goes through, Hong Kong will lose its special trading status with the United States that has so far exempted it from the bruising trade war between Washington and Beijing. "If there were no 'one country, two systems', if Hong Kong society is destroyed, this so-called 'special trade status' means nothing. So I say that the US is distorting the matter, it is a kind of threat," Mr Ng said, adding that he was confident businesses would continue to go into Hong Kong.

The American Chamber of Commerce in the city said on Friday that its members were alarmed by the proposed law, warning that the move could jeopardise business prospects and strike fear in foreign residents of the city.

Unemployment is currently at a decade high and is likely to worsen in the months to come.

The Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, of which Mr Ng is president, has suggested that the government's subsidies should also go to employees, instead of just being focused on enterprises. "This is something the Hong Kong government has not done," said Mr Ng.

He added that the city's youth should not see "one country, two systems" as a bad thing, but understand that personal growth and prosperity go hand in hand with that of the country's.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 24, 2020, with the headline 'HK security law long overdue, says representative to Beijing'. Print Edition | Subscribe