Sooner or later, Hong Kong will have to enact a national security law
State security is a sensitive issue the world over. That explains why there is a great deal of anxiety in Hong Kong after Beijing unveiled the full draft of a national security law. Not only would it have a sweeping impact on the mainland, it also stokes fears that the city may eventually come under the law if it fails to enact its own national security legislation within reasonable time. Like any other country, China is entitled to adopt effective measures to protect its national security and interests. What sets the proposed security law apart from others is its wide-ranging scope. From territorial integrity to cyberspace surveillance, from religious beliefs to ideological thinking and from economic development to food safety, the law covers many aspects of public and private lives.
President Xi Jinping has said that national security should be comprehensive. The view is apparently reflected in the all-encompassing approach of the law. Whether the law will give the state too much power is open to discussion. Xi sees the need for enhancing national security in light of the changing domestic and international circumstances. But human rights observers expressed fears that it would become a legislative tool for the Communist Party to tighten control over many aspects of life in the name of national security. The state legislature is seeking public feedback on the draft in the coming month before finalising the legislation.
With Hong Kong yet to enact a law on seven state-related crimes under Basic Law Article 23, the scrutiny of such a law on the mainland has understandably caused unease in some quarters. That the need for Hong Kong and other Chinese places to safeguard national security has been mentioned twice in the draft bill has fuelled further speculation.
Article 18 of the Basic Law stipulates that relevant national laws may be applied in Hong Kong during a state of emergency. The Basic Law also gives the city a free hand to enact its own national security law under Article 23. The Hong Kong reference in the draft national bill is not necessarily putting pressure on the city to speed up the process. If anything, it just underlines our constitutional obligation to enact the law. Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung said the reference was not surprising, as the city was part of the country. He said he was not aware of any intention for the national law to be extended to Hong Kong. That said, Article 23 will be an issue that we have to deal with sooner or later.