Last week Li Fei, chairman of the Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, paid a flying a flying visit to Hong Kong and delivered a speech at a seminar on the current state of “one country, two systems” policy.
In his speech, Li said 20 years after the handover, the bad ramifications of the SAR government’s failure to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law have become increasingly apparent. He was referring in particular to the rise of separatism in the city. His views were immediately echoed by several pro-Beijing heavyweights, all of whom urged the government to enact the article as soon as possible.
The problem is that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, in her first policy address in October, said the “current-term government must act prudently after weighing the pros and cons, and seek to create a favorable social environment for the community to handle this constitutional obligation of the HKSAR in a positive manner”.
Lam’s delaying tactic might work for now, but not forever.
We believe now is the time for Lam to start getting more proactive in facilitating the necessary political climate and “favorable environment” for public discussion of Article 23. This will set the course for consensus building on this critical issue.
As the Hong Kong Vision Project, initiated by former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, has proposed, the SAR government could consider “going for the easy ones first” when enacting Article 23.
At the initial stage, the government could remove some outdated terms in our existing Crimes Ordinance such as “the United Kingdom” and “British Dependent Territories” in the sections that deal with treason and sedition, and then replace “Her Majesty” with “the Central People’s Government of The People’s Republic of China”.
At the same time, the administration should also clearly define the meaning of such criminal offenses as “secession”.
At the second stage of the legislative initiative, the administration could start going into some of the more controversial and sensitive aspects of Article 23 such as theft of state secrets and prohibiting political organizations or bodies in Hong Kong from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies.
This “going for the easy ones first” approach can also apply to our political reform consultation. We just don’t see any reason why the chief executive cannot adopt this same approach to our democratization process in order to facilitate dialogue in society.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov 17
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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