Former vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee Elsie Leung Oi-sie said there is no need at the moment for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to dispatch its troops to quell the unrest in Hong Kong because national security is not yet under threat.
While some people have been worrying that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress might declare a state of emergency in the city, Leung, who is also a former justice secretary, told a radio program on Sunday that she does not see the time for doing so has come, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Under the Article 18 of the Basic Law, in the event that the committee “decides to declare a state of war or, by reason of turmoil within the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region which endangers national unity or security and is beyond the control of the government of the Region, decides that the Region is in a state of emergency”, the central government “may issue an order applying the relevant national laws” in the HKSAR.
But Leung said the ongoing protests have not reached a stage where there is an attempt to topple the SAR government or the central government, or have affected the national security.
As such, Article 18 of the Basic Law need not be used, she said, adding that acts of defacing the national flag and the national emblem, as protesters have done recently, were only “petty actions”.
However, Leung stressed that it would be another story if some people armed themselves to fight for Hong Kong independence or pushed the city near the status of war. If that happened, she said, Article 18 would be applicable.
She also said Article 14 of the Basic Law allows Hong Kong to ask the central government for assistance from the PLA Hong Kong garrison “in the maintenance of public order and in disaster relief” when necessary, but members of the garrison have to follow the Garrison Law and the laws of Hong Kong.
She stressed that the deployment of the garrison would not damage the “one country, two systems” principle.
Leung’s remarks came after state media released a video clip showing China’s public security officers and members of the paramilitary armed police conducting a large-scale anti-demonstration drill in Shenzhen on Saturday. The Associated Press also reported that a large number of China’s armed police were rehearsing on Sunday morning how to disperse protesters.
Leung said such rehearsals were not aimed at intimidating Hong Kong protesters but were part of security preparations for the celebrations on Oct. 1, when the nation celebrates the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic.
She said the extradition bill had been indefinitely suspended and the government had already responded to the public demands, but citizens are not satisfied with the government’s responses.
She urged all sides to calm down and hold discussions even as she called on lawmakers to persuade demonstrators to stop using violence, adding that those who played a role in planning recent clashes had done a really good job of getting the information spread.
Asked why the indiscriminate attacks by a group of thuggish individuals in Yuen Long have not been dealt with, Leung said order must first be restored before previous violent incidents could be reviewed.
Nothing can be done in a turbulent society, she added.
Leung said many people have the wrong notion that participating in protests is a great thing that can help Hong Kong strive for freedom.
She said she hoped those people would awaken, adding that freedoms do not come without restrictions.
She also warned that if Hongkongers kept disregarding law and order, it would doubtful whether Beijing would gain confidence in allowing dual universal suffrage in the city.
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