‘Soft con­sul­ta­tion’ on na­tional se­cu­rity leg­is­la­tion sug­gested

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HONG KONG - By JOSEPH LI in Hong Kong joseph@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a mem­ber of the Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil, which is Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s de facto cab­i­net, says there is a need to en­act a na­tional se­cu­rity law un­der Ar­ti­cle 23 of the Ba­sic Law in or­der to pro­tect Hong Kong from sep­a­ratism.

Tong said now is not the right time to in­tro­duce a bill into the Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil. But he sug­gests set­ting up an un­of­fi­cial plat­form to launch a kind of “soft con­sul­ta­tion” to seek the broad­est pos­si­ble con­sen­sus in so­ci­ety.

Tong also said Vic­tor Mal­let’s case has no par­tic­u­lar bear­ing on the Ar­ti­cle 23 leg­is­la­tion. This is be­cause the jour­nal­ist did not in­tend to split the coun­try — he was just dis­re­spect­ing the Ba­sic Law.

How­ever, the se­nior coun­sel feels leg­is­lat­ing Ar­ti­cle 23 is nec­es­sary to sup­press sep­a­ratism and pro-Hong Kong in­de­pen­dence ac­tiv­i­ties.

There is no law in Hong Kong that out­laws di­vid­ing the coun­try, he ar­gues. In the ab­sence of a na­tional se­cu­rity law, the spe­cial ad­min­is­tra­tive re­gion govern­ment can only rely on things such as the So­ci­eties Or­di­nance and Crimes Or­di­nance to com­bat pros­ep­a­ratism ac­tiv­i­ties.

He told China Daily: “Be­fore en­act­ment of the anti-sub­ver­sion law, the govern­ment should con­duct a ‘soft con­sul­ta­tion’. This is to touch base with var­i­ous sec­tions of the com­mu­nity in re­gard to na­tional se­cu­rity, the in­flu­ence of ex­ter­nal forces and pro­tec­tion of State se­crets. It should also ex­am­ine how to strike a bal­ance be­tween these and hu­man rights and var­i­ous free­doms,’’ Tong said.

“This kind of soft pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion is con­ducive to cre­at­ing a more am­i­ca­ble at­mos­phere … oth­er­wise, suc­cess­ful leg­is­la­tion is not guar­an­teed if the govern­ment sim­ply in­tro­duces a bill into the LegCo with­out do­ing ad­e­quate prepara­tory work,” he added

Tong re­al­izes the chief ex­ec­u­tive is un­der pres­sure to en­act Ar­ti­cle 23. But af­ter fail­ing badly to en­act the na­tional se­cu­rity law in 2003, he thinks the govern­ment should not rush. This is be­cause it does not have much con­fi­dence in pass­ing such a law in the leg­is­la­ture — where the “pan­democrats” will most likely ob­struct it.

“Is there a press­ing need for Ar­ti­cle 23 leg­is­la­tion? I don’t see it now. Oth­er­wise, the Hong Kong SAR will speed up the process,” he said.

Dis­cussing whether the fi­nal draft of the 2003 bill could still be used, Tong said this de­pends largely on whether the cen­tral govern­ment au­thor­i­ties be­lieve it is suf­fi­cient to com­bat sep­a­ratism.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah,

In light of chang­ing in­ter­na­tional cir­cum­stances, he fears the 2003 ver­sion is no longer valid.

Tong hopes a soft con­sul­ta­tion will be launched within the cur­rent term of govern­ment. The best op­por­tu­nity for leg­is­la­tion may be af­ter 2020, as Lam has hinted be­cause of im­pend­ing dis­trict coun­cil elec­tion in 2019 and LegCo elec­tion in 2020.

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