It is time for Hong Kong to start making preparations for a national security law, pro-Beijing figures said on Thursday, hours after a top Beijing official outlined the need for such legislation.
Taking a cue from Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee, who said in a speech that Hong Kong was feeling the “adverse effects” of the absence of the security law, establishment lawmakers and politicians said steps should begin for enactment of legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law.
Li, who was on a trip to Hong Kong, said in a speech Thursday that the consequences of not enacting Article 23 laws are evident in the city, and suggested that the government can’t afford to sit on the matter.
Though he didn’t mention specifically, he was alluding to the emergence of pro-independence and separatist forces in Hong Kong, which are seen as a threat to China’s interests.
Responding to the speech, Ip Kwok-him, a Hong Kong delegate to the National People’s Congress, said the Hong Kong government should make preparations to enact national security legislation within the next five years, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
“You cannot wait for five years and then another five years… The government should make actual steps, and not only say they will consider it. Five years is not a short period of time, most importantly, [the government] should make efforts to allow the public to understand Article 23 better,” Ip said.
Meanwhile, he rejected the suggestion that Li had been trying to put pressure on the Hong Kong government.
Priscilla Leung, a lawmaker representing the Business and Professionals Alliance, also said the government needs to take up the national security law issue again.
“It is a relatively good time for the government to openly speak about how it views the issue… so that the public knows why there is a need to enact the law,” she said, according to Apple Daily.
Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, states that the city is required to enact legislation to guard against treason, secession, sedition, subversion, etc.
In 2003, the government abandoned an attempt to pass such a law after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in protest.
New People’s Party lawmaker Regina Ip, who was the security secretary when the legislation failed in 2003, said on Thursday that Li’s remarks would not create pressure for the chief executive, Carrie Lam, as people are aware that the government has a duty to enact the law.
“National security legislation by its nature is controversial. But since Mrs Lam has taken over, our society has become more stable and less restless. I’m confident that the Chief Executive will be able to create the right conditions for rational discussion in a proper manner,” RTHK quoted Ip as saying.
“The earlier to implement the legislation, the better,” she added.
In his speech at a seminar Thursday, Li, who heads the Basic Law Committee under China’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said Hong Kong has a responsibility to implement its own national security legislation to safeguard the country’s sovereignty.
He said it is very wrong for some Hongkongers to describe the Basic Law as “Hong Kong’s constitution”. The special administrative region wouldn’t be formed, and ‘One Country, Two Systems’ wouldn’t even exist, without the mainland constitution, Li said.
It is “heartbreaking” that some youngsters do not understand their own nation and the history of the Chinese civilization, and are unclear on how Hong Kong came about, he added.
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