Hong Kong Basic Law

Article 23 law would help heal Hong Kong’s political divide, mainland China scholar says

Zou Pingxue, director of Shenzhen University research centre, says societal split down to absence of national security legislation and urges Hong Kong to get moving

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 April, 2017, 10:42pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 April, 2017, 12:15am

A mainland scholar and constitutional expert on Friday blamed Hong Kong’s social divide on the absence of national security legislation, saying it should be enacted as soon as possible without “any room to bargain”.

Zou Pingxue, director of Shenzhen University’s Centre for Basic Laws of Hong Kong and Macau, was speaking at a legal seminar.

Hong Kong is required, under Article 23 of its mini-constitution, to enact laws against treason, sedition and subversion, but the government has yet to initiate the process, fearing social conflict again after the first attempt was strongly rejected by the public in 2003.

Zou however suggested the legislation would help solve conflicts by equipping the government with the means to protect national security and improve relations with Beijing.

He said Hong Kong had a constitutional duty to get moving on the legislation, as the Basic Law made it clear the city should “enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition [or] subversion” against the central government.

“There is no room to bargain over a legal duty ... You cannot say there is opposition in Hong Kong so we do not enact the law,” Zou said. “They say it would sacrifice human rights and the rule of law, but there are national security laws in place all over the world with human rights issues well handled.”

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Former pan-democrat lawmaker Ronny Tong Ka-wah disagreed with Zou and suggested the mainland scholar’s views did not represent the majority opinion in Beijing.

“No one argues that Article 23 should not be legislated, but we have to strike a balance between the law and the freedom enshrined in the Basic Law,” Tong said.

He suggested the incoming administration of chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor launch a public consultation for each of the offences listed under Article 23, but he did not expect the legislation to be passed within the new government’s five-year term.

Zou reiterated a regular warning by proponents of Article 23 that Beijing might take unilateral action to introduce the law if Hong Kong did not take the initiative.

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Lam has not committed to enacting the legislation. During campaigning for the top job, she would only say she would try to create the right social conditions to make such a move.

In a related development, pan-democrat lawmakers including Leung Kwok-hung and Eddie Chu Hoi-dick will stage a protest tomorrow, symbolising a new start in their campaign for greater democracy for the next five years.