Two years on, national security law proves its worth in safer, more stable Hong Kong
- Rather than Hong Kong becoming a dystopia, the national security law has strengthened the status quo and returned stability to the streets
- Beijing could have shown this rebellious city what abandonment looked like, but it kept faith with Hong Kong and the facts speak for themselves
That has not happened, though. Instead, the status quo spanning business activity and civil institutions is better protected from disruptive strife than before.
Protesters who rejected such legislation might be taking a vital civil order for granted. Democratic societies champion such laws for themselves to help preserve their democracy.
What is the reality in Hong Kong since the promulgation of the security law? Peace and order have returned to the streets and other public spaces. Public transport and other services have resumed to levels before the protests. Business confidence in Hong Kong as a global financial and commercial hub is back. Public safety has been better assured.
Nonetheless, pockets of resentment against the security law might still exist. That Hong Kong had survived until the law became necessary was the anomaly.
That a unique security law had to be designed for Hong Kong rather than having Beijing simply transfer its security laws to the city shows that “one country, two systems” is being respected. Again, this is not something protesters appreciate.
And there were reports that the new law would ban all protests, but there was no such provision. Some academics had only been speculating on its scope amid expectations that protests would be outlawed.
The national security law is consistent with Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Britain agreed that China would be the sole authority to determine Hong Kong’s future. The Basic Law provides for only China to interpret it and for Beijing to be ultimately responsible for Hong Kong’s security.
Hong Kong’s police exclusively enforce the laws and Hong Kong’s courts exclusively adjudicate cases in the city. Foreign judges still serve in the Court of Final Appeal, including being able to hear cases that could pertain to China’s national security.
All of Beijing’s actions in Hong Kong have been in response to the city’s requests for such actions. Hong Kong authorities alone continue to administer Hong Kong.
Following protests against Beijing’s actions, the central government might have suspended its support for Hong Kong to give protesters an idea what full disengagement might mean. Denied mainland attention and investment, the city’s ills would have continued to fester.
Instead, Beijing kept faith with Hong Kong and worked for its revival. Security considerations must now also address Hongkongers’ lingering concerns – widening inequality, rising cost of living, housing shortages and limited career prospects. Only time will tell if Beijing’s investment is effective, or even appreciated.
Bunn Nagara is an international geopolitical consultant and honorary fellow of the Perak Academy