The city's security chief has given Hongkongers an assurance that a controversial national security law - back in the spotlight after a top mainland official said "necessary measures" were needed to stop foreign interference - was not a top priority for Hong Kong's government.
Secretary for Security Lai Tung-kwok made his remarks yesterday on the last day of his five-day visit to Beijing, after meeting Zhang Xiaoming , a deputy director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office on Wednesday.
"It's the special administrative region's constitutional responsibility to set up laws to protect national security in Hong Kong, and the public should bear this responsibility together" said Lai. "But as the government has said in various occasions, its major task now is to tackle issues that the public are concerned about, including housing, poverty and environment."
Lai said his meeting with Zhang had been a courtesy call and they did not talk about the legislation. They mainly discussed the country's future development as stated in the report of the 18th party congress.
In an article in pro-Beijing newspaper Wen Wei Po last week Zhang, called for enactment of the law, required by Article 23 of the Basic Law. In the 6,000-word article, "Enrich the implementation of one country, two systems", Zhang wrote that unnamed "external powers" had gotten deeply involved in Hong Kong elections and had helped to co-ordinate campaigns for opposition parties. He said Hong Kong should complete the Article 23 legislation "in due course".
Zhang said that the Hong Kong City-State Autonomy Movement and any referendum campaigns were in breach of the "one country" part of "one country, two systems". The article was a chapter in a study guide to the report of the party congress.
In 2003, 500,000 Hongkongers marched against the implementation of Article 23 national security legislation, which prohibits any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central government.
Lai also said the matter of parallel traders buying goods in Hong Kong for sale on the mainland was raised when he met customs minister Yu Guangzhou. Shenzhen customs had found 1,232 suspected cases of smuggling since it joined forces with Hong Kong to tackle parallel trading in September, he said.
Shenzhen officials were still investigating 23 of the cases.
"The co-operation between Shenzhen and Hong Kong is mainly about information exchange," he said. "We must continue this operation."