Hong Kong Basic Law
Get more with myNEWS
A personalised news feed of stories that matter to you
Learn more
Zhou Nan led Xinhua news agency, Beijing’s de facto embassy in Hong Kong before the 1997 handover. Photo: Robert Ng

Beijing’s man during handover urges Hong Kong to ‘seriously consider’ enacting national security to ensure harmony

Former Xinhua director’s remarks, due to appear in magazine this week, echo recent calls by China’s No 3 state leader for Beijing to exert tighter grip in city

Beijing’s top man in Hong Kong during the handover to China two decades ago has urged the city to “seriously consider” enacting its own national security laws to help create “a harmonious society”.

Zhou Nan, former director of the official Xinhua news agency’s Hong Kong branch – Beijing’s de facto embassy before 1997 – made the suggestions in an article to be published in the latest issue of the pro-­establishment Bauhinia magazine on Thursday. Advance copies were distributed on Monday.

The proposal from Zhou, who was a top negotiator in Sino-British talks on the city’s future, came two days after Zhang ­Dejiang, China’s No 3 state leader, called on the local government to enact national security legislation. Zhang also signalled a tighter grip over the city, announcing that Beijing would “go into further ­details” about consolidating its sovereignty over Hong Kong in several areas, such as its power over the chief executive.

In his latest article, Zhou wrote that even in the early 1980s, Beijing was already aware of the possibility that there could be “chaos” in Hong Kong.

Quoting China’s late paramount leader, he wrote: “Deng Xiaoping had said: ‘It is easy to create unrest. If there is unrest, and if Hong Kong is becoming a base for subverting socialism on the mainland, the central government needs to intervene’.”

Zhou said it was because of Deng’s concern that Article 23 was made part of Hong Kong’s mini- ­constitution, the Basic Law, to facilitate legislation against offences such as treason, secession, sedition and subversion against Beijing.

The local government’s legislative efforts ended in failure in 2003 after half a million people took to the streets to oppose it, fearing it would be used as a tool to curb civil liberties.

Referring to political movements in the city in recent years, Zhou said: “Many Hong Kong ­patriots say the farces of Occupy [Central] and [ calls for] independence show that it is necessary to appropriately legislate according to ­Article 23 as soon as possible.

“It is worth serious consideration, as it is the prerequisite for building a harmonious society in Hong Kong.”

In response to Zhou’s remarks, incoming chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor reiterated that while legislating Article 23 was a constitutional obligation for the city, “past experience tells us the subject is highly controversial and could cause social disturbance”.

The June issue of Bauhinia also includes an interview with Zhu Yucheng, who was one of Zhou’s deputies before the handover.

Zhu revealed that while preparing for the handover ceremony at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai in 1997, he and his colleagues had received a phone call claiming a bomb was on the seventh floor of the building.

Zhu told the magazine that he was “not scared” and explained to his ­colleagues that “it must be a hoax”. The ceremony was eventually held successfully.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Ex-top official calls for national security law in HK