Mainland think tank on HK affairs forms group 'to safeguard national security'

Think tank adds to recent initiatives backing launch of mainland laws in HK

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 January, 2015, 12:03am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 January, 2015, 5:01pm

A top mainland think tank on Hong Kong affairs has set up a specific group on safeguarding national security, a sensitive topic that has flared up in the city over the past week in the aftermath of the Occupy Central civil disobedience campaign.

The new group, formed under the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, came into being on the same day the city was met with a high-level suggestion to copy and paste the mainland's tough security laws into the Basic Law.

A prominent legal academic yesterday dismissed that suggestion, coming from a Hong Kong deputy to the national legislature, as "unconstitutional".

The national security group's name roughly translates as the Professional Committee on Safeguarding National Security.

Professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, former University of Hong Kong law dean, said it was decided more than a decade ago that, when the city eventually adopted national security laws, these would be written locally instead of being copied wholesale from the harsh mainland version.

"It is inappropriate to place mainland Chinese laws into Hong Kong's systems," Chan said. "A lot of problems will be generated."

Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city is supposed to enact laws on national security. But efforts to do so prompted huge protests in 2003 and no government has since resurrected the idea.

Chan said uncertainties could arise as to whether local courts had the jurisdiction to try cases of national security or the right to interpret laws applied from the mainland.

He called on mainland authorities to respect Hong Kong's mini-constitution, which is "also part of the national laws".

The new group was formed under the association, whose chairman, Chen Zuoer , is a top adviser to Beijing on Hong Kong affairs. Also on Sunday, National People's Congress delegate Stanley Ng Chau-pei said he would ask Beijing to apply its laws to the city, which practises a separate legal system.

Both initiatives are seen as high-handed responses to the Occupy protests against Beijing's decision last year on universal suffrage in Hong Kong. Vice-president Li Yuanchao on Wednesday said the central government did not consider Occupy a closed chapter, adding that "the really interesting part of the show is yet to come".

Professor Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the association, said it was natural for his organisation to set up a group in defence of national security as the city had yet to draw up a national security law on its own.

"Beijing sees the need to study how to tackle the interference of external forces in Hong Kong," Lau said.