Like it or not, being an inalienable part of China gives Hong Kong the duty to defend national security. And when the city is still unable to enact the relevant law on its own after 23 years of reunification, Beijing sees it as a legitimate step to pass such a law for implementation. This is no doubt a highly controversial move, as reflected in yesterday’s stock market plunge and the strong reactions both here and overseas. Beijing is obviously worried about what happened over the past year and is keen to get such a law in place at all costs. The stakes have been raised so high that local worries and international perceptions cannot be ignored. How to address those concerns and get the mechanism in place shall be a challenge. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she would fully cooperate. Citing a long list of political woes caused by her failed attempt to introduce an extradition bill, Lam said the situation had made people understand the importance of national security. For years, the government has shied away from re-tabling the law under Article 23 of the Basic Law since half a million people took to the streets in 2003 to reject the bill, which they feared would erode their freedoms and rights. Lam repeatedly said she would strive to create the social environment conducive to re-enactment. But she has done the opposite thanks to her unpopular extradition bill. Two Sessions, two cities: what can Macau teach Hong Kong on national security? The new law targets secession, subversion, foreign interference and terrorism. In addition to enhancing the legal system and enforcement mechanism as well as requiring the chief executive to submit regular relevant reports, it also provides for the establishment of a national security organisation in the city by the relevant central government agency. Full details have not been made available at this stage, but with two fundamentally different legal systems involved, many issues still need to be tackled. Given the city is unlikely to pass its own law soon and the global environment has become more complex and volatile, Beijing says it has no choice but to step in. The opposition declared it a breach of the Basic Law and the death of “one country, two systems”. Whether it will speed up our own legislative process remains to be seen. But for those who take issue with the way Beijing and the city government handled recent political incidents, the escalating tension does nothing for mutual trust and long-term relations. Whatever form it takes, it is important the national security law addresses concerns over possible curbs on freedoms and rights. They are exactly why the bill failed 17 years ago. Beijing’s pledge not to affect legitimate freedoms and rights is to be welcomed, although further legal clarifications are needed. The last thing Hong Kong needs is further division and antagonism with Beijing. Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.