Hong Kong official dismisses fear that anti-terrorism law will usher in national security legislation

Lawmakers question whether localists will be branded terrorists under proposed amendment to UN ordinance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 8:08pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 03 January, 2017, 10:29pm

The government dismissed suggestions that its latest proposals to amend the anti-terrorism ordinance will turn into national security legislation as “sheer fabrication”.

Undersecretary for security John Lee Ka-chiu made the comments on Tuesday at a meeting of the Legislative Council’s security panel as lawmakers questioned whether radical activists or localists would be easily characterised as terrorists under proposed amendments to the United Nations (Anti-Terrorism Measures) Ordinance.

Hong Kong proposes tougher laws to deal with international terrorist threat

The proposed changes include preventing people from leaving the city to take part in terrorist activities or receive terrorist training, fast-tracking the freezing of terrorists’ assets, and prohibiting activities and funding for terrorism purposes.

The proposals were introduced under Beijing’s instructions for Hong Kong to implement a resolution by the UN Security Council in 2014 and also the latest recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force against terrorist financing.

Under the law, a terrorist or his or her associate will be gazetted locally according to the list designated by the Committee of the UN Security Council. Hong Kong’s chief executive also has the right to apply to the court to identify people as terrorists, although no such request has been made so far.

“I just wonder whether a pro-independence activist will be regarded as a terrorist? Or whether a seminar about Tibet will be treated as terrorist training?” People Power lawmaker Raymond Chan Chi-chuen said.

Lee replied: “There is a saying that our proposed amendments will turn into Article 23 legislation. This is absolutely wrong, a sheer fabrication out of nothing.”

In 2003, the government was forced to scrap a plan to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law after half a million people took to the streets. The article states that Hong Kong “shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion” against the central government.

Lee explained that the amendments were aimed at preventing people from going abroad for terrorist activities or training, not regulating Hongkongers’ domestic activities inside the city. But he pledged that the term “terrorist training” would be clearly defined during the bill-drafting process to avoid misunderstandings.

Lee also told lawmakers that the Hong Kong government had no say over who were classified as terrorists as such specifications were subject to decisions of the UN Security Council or local courts.

“I believe all Hong Kong people believe in local courts,” he said, adding that under the law any action in the course of advocacy, protest, dissent or industrial action would not be treated as terrorist acts.