Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law is a must-do but there is no timetable for it yet, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Asked by reporters whether the government will speed up the legislation process, Lam, who returned from Beijing on Thursday after a three-day visit, said no timetable has been set to tackle the issue, although she stressed that the HKSAR government and herself have the constitutional duty to safeguard national security.
The fact that Article 23 requires Hong Kong to implement local laws against any act of treason, secession, sedition and subversion against the central government means the work has to be done, only that it must be done at the right time under a conducive environment, otherwise it will end up being an empty promise, she said.
Pressure from Beijing for the SAR government to come up with the enabling law has mounted after the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) invited Andy Chan Ho-tin, co-founder and convenor of the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), which has been advocating independence, to speak at the club’s lunchtime event on Tuesday.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials have slammed the FCC for providing a platform to an independenceadvocate, and even suggested that its lease on a government property might not be renewed.
A day after Chan gave the controversial speech, Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said what the club did was illegal and urged the SAR government to consider legislating Article 23.
Huang Liuquan, deputy director of the office, on Thursday said the FCC had seriously impaired China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and said providing a platform for an organization advocating Hong Kong independence was totally unacceptable.
Also on Thursday, the overseas edition of The People’s Daily said in an opinion piece that it is time for Hong Kong to expedite legislation of Article 23.
Only by completing the task can Hong Kong have clearer and more binding regulations on foreign organizations or groups when they conduct political activities in the city, and will the FCC be more discerning when inviting guest speakers, the Communist Party mouthpiece said.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo Man-ching said both the SAR government and Beijing are trying to take the advantage of the incident to push for legislation of Article 23.
Former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, who has been castigating the FCC over the Chan affair, fired his broadsides at the pan-democratic camp, accusing its members, including some lawmakers, of supporting Hong Kong independence, despite their denials.
Leung, who is vice chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s top political advisory body, described the pan-democrats as Chan’s good friends.
Meanwhile, more than 50 civil society groups condemned Leung and several pro-establishment lawmakers for trying to take back the building where the FCC is located.
They blamed Lam for failing to protect free speech and called on the people to demand that she safeguard media autonomy and uphold the “one country, two systems” principle during her Facebook live session that begins at 8 p.m. on Friday.
Lam will seek public views and inputs regarding her Policy Address scheduled for October.
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