Se­cu­rity law guardian of HK pros­per­ity

‘One coun­try, two sys­tems’ pro­tected as key to city’s role as global fi­nan­cial hub

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YANGFEI zhangyangf­ei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Law for Hong Kong marks a milestone in the cause of “one coun­try, two sys­tems”, a Hong Kong and Ma­cao af­fairs of­fi­cial said on Wed­nes­day.

Zhang Xiaom­ing, deputy direc­tor of the Hong Kong and Ma­cao Af­fairs Of­fice of the State Coun­cil, said at a news con­fer­ence in Bei­jing that the new Na­tional Se­cu­rity Law, which took ef­fect on Tues­day night, serves as a guardian for Hong Kong’s pros­per­ity and sta­bil­ity and is a turn­ing point for Hong Kong’s developmen­t to get back on track.

The Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, the top leg­is­la­ture, on Tues­day unan­i­mously passed The Law of the Peo­ple’s

Repub­lic of China on Safe­guard­ing Na­tional Se­cu­rity in the Hong Kong Spe­cial Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion. It came into force as soon as the full text was pub­lished about one hour be­fore the start of Wed­nes­day, which was the 23rd an­niver­sary of Hong Kong’s re­turn to the moth­er­land.

As of 8 pm on Wed­nes­day, po­lice had ar­rested over 300 protesters, in­clud­ing nine sus­pected of vi­o­lat­ing the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Law. The rest were ar­rested for sus­pected un­law­ful as­sem­bly, dis­or­der in pub­lic places, reck­less driv­ing and pos­ses­sion of an of­fen­sive weapon.

The first two ar­rested who were sus­pected of break­ing the new law, a man and a woman, were found car­ry­ing a flag and a plac­ard, re­spec­tively, ad­vo­cat­ing Hong Kong in­de­pen­dence amid an il­le­gal as­sem­bly on Hong Kong Is­land on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

The new law says any­one who or­ga­nizes, plans, com­mits or par­tic­i­pates in com­mit­ting se­ces­sion shall be guilty of an of­fense.

“Hong Kong’s unique sta­tus as an in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial, trade and ship­ping center is ow­ing to the back­ing and sup­port of the Chi­nese main­land, and in turn it has lever­aged its strengths to sup­port the main­land’s re­form and mod­ern­iza­tion,” Zhang said.

How­ever, if na­tional se­cu­rity of­fend­ers are still al­lowed to turn the city into a spring­board for con­duct­ing sub­ver­sion against the main­land, Hong Kong would lose its sta­tus and its pros­per­ity would be gravely un­der­mined, he said, re­it­er­at­ing that the law serves as a high­hang­ing sword over only a tiny num­ber of of­fend­ers as well as a de­ter­rent to ex­ter­nal forces.

China’s “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple is pi­o­neer­ing and un­prece­dented and thus bound to be fraught with chal­lenges dur­ing its ad­vance­ment and face prob­lems that need to be ad­dressed, he said.

Since Hong Kong’s re­turn to China in 1997, the NPC Stand­ing Com­mit­tee has ex­er­cised its con­sti­tu­tional power on mat­ters con­cern­ing the Ba­sic Law, the SAR’s mini-con­sti­tu­tion. En­act­ment of this law is the most sig­nif­i­cant initiative taken by the cen­tral govern­ment to ad­dress is­sues re­lated to Hong Kong.

It is also the sec­ond ma­jor law specif­i­cally tai­lored for Hong Kong by the cen­tral govern­ment, fol­low­ing the Ba­sic Law, Zhang added.

The for­mu­la­tion of this law demon­strates that the cen­tral govern­ment at­taches great im­por­tance to the sys­tem design from the top level as well as tar­get­ing the root causes of prob­lems.

The Na­tional Se­cu­rity Law came after the NPC adopted a de­ci­sion dur­ing its annual ses­sion in May to im­prove Hong Kong’s le­gal sys­tem and en­force­ment mech­a­nism, aim­ing to end the un­rest and ri­ots that have oc­curred in the re­gion since June 2019.

Zhang said that the new law is sure to face skep­ti­cism and con­cerns, but it fully com­plies with the “one coun­try, two sys­tems” prin­ci­ple.

“Or we can say it is a law that per­fectly ad­heres to the prin­ci­ple of ‘one coun­try’ and re­spects the dif­fer­ences be­tween ‘two sys­tems’,” he said. The leg­isla­tive pur­pose is to main­tain this prin­ci­ple, and the con­tent does not over­run its frame­work, he added.

“Ul­ti­mately it is to up­hold and im­prove ‘one coun­try, two sys­tems’, not al­ter it,” he said.

Zhang crit­i­cized some for­eign politi­cians’ com­ments that the Chi­nese govern­ment is try­ing to ad­vance a “one coun­try, one sys­tem” agenda in Hong Kong.

“If we are go­ing to make one sys­tem, this mat­ter would be far sim­pler. We could have im­posed our na­tional laws such as the Crim­i­nal Pro­ce­dure Law straight­away on the HKSAR. Why would we bother to cre­ate so much work to tai­lor-make a law for Hong Kong?” he said.

He said some in­ter­na­tional voices have mis­un­der­stood the con­cept of China’s “one coun­try, two sys­tems” and have crit­i­cized China for erod­ing Hong Kong’s au­ton­omy when­ever the cen­tral au­thor­i­ties ex­er­cise their pow­ers ac­cord­ing to law.

“It seems that the cen­tral govern­ment can­not con­trol any­thing re­lated to Hong Kong, but they are free to point fin­gers over Hong Kong is­sues,” he said, adding that no sin­gle coun­try in the world could turn a blind eye to crimes that en­dan­ger its se­cu­rity.

“‘One coun­try, two sys­tems’ is our State pol­icy. No one cher­ishes it more than we do, no one un­der­stands its true mean­ing bet­ter than we do and no one has more power to de­fine and ex­plain our pol­icy than we do,” he added.

China un­veiled the full de­tails of the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Law on Tues­day night, lay­ing out penal­ties, with the heav­i­est be­ing life im­pris­on­ment for four cat­e­gories of crimes: se­ces­sion, sub­ver­sion, ter­ror­ism and col­lu­sion with for­eign forces.

Dif­fer­ent le­gal sys­tems

In ad­di­tion to grant­ing to the HKSAR the main re­spon­si­bil­ity in ex­er­cis­ing ju­ris­dic­tion over crim­i­nal cases, it also spec­i­fies the du­ties of a na­tional se­cu­rity of­fice set up by the cen­tral govern­ment — the Of­fice for Safe­guard­ing Na­tional Se­cu­rity of the Cen­tral Peo­ple’s Govern­ment in the HKSAR.

“We can tell from the name that this of­fice rep­re­sents the cen­tral govern­ment and is dif­fer­ent from of­fices set up by de­part­ments of the cen­tral govern­ment or by provinces, au­tonomous re­gions or mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties,” Zhang said.

The law stip­u­lates that the of­fice will an­a­lyze and as­sess the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in Hong Kong, sug­gest ma­jor strate­gies and poli­cies, over­see, guide and sup­port the re­gion in han­dling na­tional se­cu­rity af­fairs, col­lect in­tel­li­gence and han­dle cases.

Ar­ti­cle 55 of the law also clar­i­fies three spe­cific cir­cum­stances un­der which the of­fice will ex­er­cise ju­ris­dic­tion: com­plex cases in­volv­ing a for­eign coun­try or ex­ter­nal el­e­ments, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for the SAR to ex­er­cise ju­ris­dic­tion over the case, a se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion oc­curs in which the SAR govern­ment is un­able to ef­fec­tively en­force the law, and when a ma­jor and im­mi­nent threat to na­tional se­cu­rity oc­curs.

Zhang said the of­fice’s law en­force­ment power will in­clude in­ves­ti­ga­tion, tak­ing nec­es­sary in­ves­tiga­tive mea­sures and mak­ing ar­rests with a pros­e­cu­tor’s war­rant. The law also makes it clear that the sub­se­quent pros­e­cu­tion and trial will be handed over to pros­e­cu­tors and courts des­ig­nated by the Supreme Peo­ple’s Procu­ra­torate and the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court.

Zhang said the law sets out such stip­u­la­tions be­cause Hong Kong’s le­gal sys­tem is dif­fer­ent from that of the main­land. The cen­tral govern­ment’s agen­cies and HKSAR agen­cies are two dif­fer­ent law en­force­ment and ju­di­cial bod­ies, and they should and can only en­force their own laws, oth­er­wise it would cause con­fu­sion in ap­ply­ing laws.

Ac­cord­ing to the new law, the cen­tral govern­ment and the HKSAR each ex­er­cise their full ju­ris­dic­tional pro­ce­dures from in­ves­ti­ga­tion, pros­e­cu­tion, trial and rul­ing. “It helps draw a clear line in ju­ris­dic­tion and makes it eas­ier for them to com­ple­ment and co­op­er­ate with each other,” Zhang said.

The law also ex­empts the per­son­nel of the na­tional se­cu­rity of­fice, as well as their acts while per­form­ing their duty, from be­ing sub­ject to the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s ju­ris­dic­tion.

Zhang said it is to guar­an­tee that the of­fice staff can per­form their du­ties well and is “en­tirely rea­son­able” be­cause the pow­ers ex­er­cised by the of­fice staff are be­yond the HKSAR’s au­ton­omy.

The du­ties and many cases in­ves­ti­gated by the of­fice may in­volve State se­crets and do not fall un­der HKSAR au­thor­i­ties, he said.

“The cen­tral govern­ment has the power and re­spon­si­bil­ity to take all nec­es­sary mea­sures to safe­guard na­tional se­cu­rity. This is a gen­eral prin­ci­ple and the ba­sis for con­sid­er­ing all spe­cific is­sues,” he said.

WANG ZHUANGFEI / CHINA DAILY

Shen Chun­yao (center), direc­tor of the Leg­isla­tive Af­fairs Com­mis­sion of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress, China’s top leg­is­la­ture, and Zhang Xiaom­ing (right), deputy direc­tor of the State Coun­cil’s Hong Kong and Ma­cao Af­fairs Of­fice, speak at a news con­fer­ence in Bei­jing on Wed­nes­day about the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Law for Hong Kong.

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