Hong Kong Chief Executive revisits controversial security law in wake of Beijing interpretation
Analyst warns over further riots if government enacts national security legislation in turbulent political climate
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying made his strongest stand yet on the need to put controversial national security legislation back on the government agenda.
Leung had previously pledged not to touch on the contentious subject during his five-year term.
But yesterday, speaking an hour after Beijing had handed down its interpretation, he said the city would enact the national security law on its own based on Article 23 of the Basic Law, which would prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition or subversion.
“I believe the central government would no longer regard the legislation of Article 23 as an unfinished constitutional responsibility in the wake of the pro-independence and separatist drive, but instead a [matter of] practical significance,” Leung said.
“Hongkongers have not seen anyone in the city advocating Hong Kong independence in the past, but now they see it. This indeed deserves our attention.”
Government attempts to enact the law in 2003 saw 500,000 people, fearful for their rights and freedoms, take to the streets.
The bill was shelved after Liberal Party heavyweight and then lawmaker James Tien Pei-chun resigned from the Executive Council in protest.
Tien’s party colleague and lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan believed any aspirants eyeing the top job may have to include the matter on their election agenda should they want to win the blessing of Beijing.
Chung said it would be easier to enact such a law today because “offensive” remarks made by the localist pair had angered many patriotic citizens.
Political scientist Dr Ma Ngok disagreed. “The political awareness of Hongkongers has increased over the years and they are also more ready to struggle,” he said.
He warned that riots similar to those in Mong Kok in February could erupt should the government push for national security legislation in the current political climate.
Zhang Xiaoming, director of the central government liaison office in Hong Kong, told pro-establishment figures on Sunday that Beijing had considered applying the mainland national security law and issuing a directive to the chief executive to disqualify the two localist lawmakers.
This was confirmed by Professor Lau Siu-kai, a Hong Kong delegate to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference who attended the meeting.
But Zhang said in the end Beijing came to the conclusion that adding the mainland security law, which was passed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee in July last year, to Annex 3 of the Basic Law was not feasible because it was framework legislation.