Hong Kong has a constitutional duty to enact national security legislation, but the government has no timetable for pursuing such action, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday, noting that a conducive environment is needed before the issue can be taken up.
Speaking to reporters before attending a regular Executive Council meeting, Lam said the time is not yet right for initiatives pertaining to Article 23 of the Basic Law, which requires Hong Kong to implement laws against treason, secession, sedition and subversion.
Authorities need the “right environment” and “suitable conditions” before they can move forward on the key legislation, she said.
According to her, preconditions include a calmer society and sufficient confidence among Hong Kong people in the central and Hong Kong governments, and a situation where there is room for more rational discussions over the topic.
Asked if she expects the conducive conditions to emerge next year, Lam replied that she can’t give any definitive answer.
The comments came as concerns over Article 23 have resurfaced in the city as Beijing officials have been reminding Hong Kong on the need to enact a new law to protect China’s national interests, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
On Sunday, Wang Zhimin, director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, said at a forum that Hong Kong’s lack of a national security law makes it a risk point for China.
The remark, made at a National Security Education Day symposium, was interpreted by observers as a pressure tactic on the Hong Kong government to press ahead with Article 23 legislation.
Lam, however, claimed on Tuesday that she is under no pressure at all. But she stressed that she endeavors every day to create suitable conditions that can help push through important legislative work.
As Article 23 legislation issue had sparked intense controversy in society, Lam said that as the city’s leader she has to size up the situation and weigh all factors before deciding what to do to accomplish the mission.
The chief executive specifically clarified that although Qiao Xiaoyang, former chairman of the NPC law committee, is scheduled to come to Hong Kong on Thursday to address principal officials appointed under the accountability system and senior civil servants, the trip has nothing to do with Article 23 legislation or any pro-independence advocacies in Hong Kong.
Tam Yiu-chung, the sole Hong Kong member of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, China’s top legislative body, said he agreed with Wang that Hong Kong does pose a risk to China in the absence of a national security law.
It is up to Lam to make a decision on when to legislate Article 23, Tam said, but added that he hopes to see the work done before her terms ends in 2022.
Charles Mok Nai-kwong, a lawmaker who represents the information technology functional constituency and is convenor of the pan-democratic camp, said the pan-democrats believe genuine universal suffrage is necessary if one wants to create a conducive environment in the city.
The recent push by Beijing officials to legislate Article 23 can only agitate the political climate further and deepen the social rifts in the city, he warned.
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