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National People's Congress

Pressure increases on Hong Kong leader to enact controversial national security law

Pro-Beijing veteran says government has enough time to push ahead with controversial law, which is needed to counter independence calls

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 2:28pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 5:49pm

The pressure to enact national security legislation in Hong Kong is piling as the man tipped to be the next sole local delegate to the mainland’s top legislative body called on the chief executive to work on Article 23 of the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, within her term.

His comments came after Beijing last month signalled its impatience with Hong Kong for making no progress in rolling out the law, suggesting the city is already paying the price with independence advocates exploiting the lack of such legislation.

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Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor also said during her three-day maiden duty visit to Beijing that she would do her best to create a favourable environment to enact the highly contentious national security legislation, adding that Beijing knew her stance on the matter.

Speaking on a radio programme on Wednesday, Tam Yiu-chung, a newly elected member to the National People’s Congress (NPC), the country’s legislature, said that with the current government having more than four years left in office, it should work on the controversial law and not just pass it on to the next administration. But he said that was no need for an exact timeline at the moment.

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.

Tam, a former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s largest pro-establishment political party, is tipped to replace Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who is retiring as a member of the NPC standing committee, which holds the power to interpret the Basic Law.

He said the independence movement, which has been growing in popularity over the past few years, also made it necessary to enact the law.

“A lot of people have been openly advocating independence these few years, this will harm Hong Kong,” Tam said.

“So we need some laws to prevent this from happening, as the laws we have now are not comprehensive.”

He added that the legislation is not to limit the freedoms and rights of the public, but rather to target those who want to use Hong Kong to overthrow China or split the country.

Last month, Li Fei, a senior mainland official who specialises in the Basic Law, made clear that “the duty is unavoidable”.

But critics have said that the law would be a threat to civil liberties.

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While Lam said she had not discussed enacting Article 23 with President Xi Jinping when they met last week, she stressed that it is Hong Kong’s constitutional responsibility to enact Article 23 through local legislation.

In 2003, the government was forced to scrap a plan to enact the national security law after half a million people took to the streets.

During the programme, Tam also said that he would be willing to serve as a member of the NPC standing committee, a position he has been widely tipped for. He said that after stepping down from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, he has more time on hand and would be willing to contribute more to the country and the city.

He noted that he would need to get the support of most of the other 35 local members to the NPC, adding that they have not discussed the issue yet.

On recent amendments made to Legco’s rules of procedure proposed by the pro-establishment bloc, Tam said the standing committee might not interpret the law even if there is a judicial review filed.

Changes to the rule book include one requiring fewer lawmakers to be present for certain types of Legco meetings to go ahead.