Macau security law praised at handover event
Fanny W.Y. Fung and Gary Cheung
The mainland's top lawmaker yesterday praised Macau for its legislation on national security and maintaining social harmony, as he formally concluded the first 10 years of its post-handover administration.
His remark triggered concern by pan-democrats in Hong Kong, who feared that it meant Beijing would push forward legislation on Article 23 of the Basic Law in the city - which was shelved in 2003 amid wide public outcry.
Wu Bangguo, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, was speaking at a seminar on the 10th anniversary of the implementation of the Macau Basic Law. The event, held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, was also attended by Vice-President Xi Jinping , State Councillor Liu Yandong, general-office director of the Communist Party Central Committee Ling Jihua , and other senior central government and party officials.
Lauding the national security law, which was enacted in March, Wu said: 'With wide participation and active discussion by Macau residents, the special administrative region's Legislative Assembly passed the National Security Bill early this year after serious deliberation. This has further strengthened the national consciousness in the Macau community, and is beneficial for maintaining the country's core interests.'
Zhang Xiaoming , deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, echoed Wu, saying that the passage of the law had embodied the Macau people's sense of citizenship, national sovereignty and unity, and showed the idea of 'one country, two systems' had been instilled in residents' hearts.
Among compliments, Wu praised Macau for preventing social conflicts. 'Various sectors in Macau always ... persist in seeking consensus and reducing differences, actively open dialogues, regard social harmony highly and would not simply politicise conflicts and problems.'
The National People's Congress chief spelled out his three hopes on the future development of Macau: to strengthen publicity about the Basic Law and rule of law in general; to improve its policy systems; and to enhance the quality of its civil servants.
Macau's outgoing chief executive, Edmund Ho Hau-wah, who led a delegation to join the Beijing seminar, admitted that his government had made big mistakes. 'Those defects and mistakes occurred because we failed to comprehensively and accurately master the principles of the Basic Law,' he said.
In Hong Kong, Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said Wu's comment on the national security legislation would amount to pressure for the Hong Kong government to follow Macau's example. 'It shows that the central government takes it to heart that the [Hong Kong] Article 23 legislation has not been put on the table and passed,' Ho said. 'It has been more than 10 years since the handover.
'Hong Kong is a free society with so many activities, including protests, some targeting the central government. I can't see that any of these activities are posing a threat to national security.'
Lau Kong-wah, an executive councillor and vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, dismissed Ho's concerns. 'There is no point in speculating on any motives behind the speech of a central government leader,' he said.
Speaking in Beijing, Qiao Xiaoyang , deputy secretary general of the NPC Standing Committee, also declined to comment on whether Wu's remarks meant that Hong Kong should learn from Macau in respect to the national security law.
A Hong Kong government spokesman said Secretary for Security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong reiterated in October last year that the government's priorities were the economy and people's livelihood, and that the government did not have a plan to enact the national security law. 'The government's position on the issue remains unchanged,' he said.