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A banner at the Cross-Harbour Tunnel in Causeway Bay promotes national security. Photo: Sam Tsang

Letters | Dual mechanism of national security law exemplifies ‘one country, two systems’

  • Readers discuss the enforcement of the national security law in Hong Kong, and gig workers’ rights
Hong Kong
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In his speech delivered last Friday in Beijing, Mr Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, described the enforcement arrangement for the national security law as a “dual enforcement mechanism”, where the central government bears the fundamental responsibility for safeguarding national security, while the Committee for Safeguarding National Security assumes the primary responsibility for implementing the national security law in Hong Kong.

The dual mechanism is perhaps the most unique feature of the national security law, for so far no other national law promulgated in Hong Kong requires enforcement by the central government. Under the dual mechanism, the ultimate power of making, enforcing and adjudicating in the national security law belongs to Beijing. The national security committee is authorised by the central government to maintain national security and implement the national security law in Hong Kong.

Mr Xia made it clear that the central government would only step in when the issue cannot be solved by the national security committee and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, which means that any other issue related to national security in Hong Kong remains the concern of the national security committee. The arrangement shows the central government’s high degree of trust in the Hong Kong government’s ability to safeguard national security in the region.

The spirit is in line with the latest interpretation of the national security law by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC). In response to the chief executive’s request for interpretation, and a clear answer to the question of overseas lawyers’ eligibility to participate in national security cases, the NPC Standing Committee simply made reference to the relevant articles of the national security law and left it to the chief executive to decide.

It should be pointed out that under the dual enforcement mechanism, the national security committee is enforcing the national security law on behalf of the central government. This explains the overriding status of its decision.

The dual enforcement mechanism demonstrates that maintaining national security in the SAR requires joint efforts by Hong Kong and Beijing. It is a prime example of the organic combination of the “one country” and the “two systems” perspectives for the betterment of Hong Kong.

Dr Dennis Lam, Legislative Council member and Hong Kong deputy to the NPC

More government support needed to protect gig workers’ rights

To maintain harmonious labour relations in the private sector and protect the rights of workers in Hong Kong, the Labour Department has been offering in-person consultation services to employers and employees on issues related to employment conditions, rights and obligations under the Employment Ordinance. Conciliation services are also available for the employers and employees settling their disputes voluntarily. In 2021, more than 44,000 consultation meetings were held involving about 54,000 individuals.

If the disputes cannot be resolved, the Minor Employment Claims Adjudication Board can adjudicate minor employment claims each involving not more than 10 claimants for a sum of money not exceeding HK$15,000 (US$1,900) per claimant whereas the Labour Tribunal of the Judiciary can handle cases of a larger scale. Although no data is available on the effectiveness of these services, full-time employees in Hong Kong at least have access to the government’s support and the justice system in protecting their rights under the Employment Ordinance.

However, with the rise of the gig economy and the dominance of employers such as Uber and Foodpanda, which offer short-term contracts and freelance work, the traditional model of labour rights protection, as adopted by the Labour Department, may not serve the increasing number of gig workers in Hong Kong.
It is estimated that about 700,000 people worked in the gig economy in Hong Kong in 2020. Yet, the Labour Department has no data on how many of the workers seeking its assistance are gig workers, making it challenging to assess the needs of this group. In the short term, we urge the government to provide specialised training for Labour Department staff to protect gig workers’ rights as the Employment Ordinance may not be applicable. In the long term, we call on the government and the Legislative Council to amend the Employment Ordinance so that gig workers can also access statutory employee benefits and protection.

Steven Fung and Henry So, Kowloon Tong