National People's Congress

Hong Kong delegate to China’s legislature vows to push local officials to enact national security legislation within five years

Pledge comes as nominations are gathered before body’s election next month

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 7:48pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 November, 2017, 11:16pm

Two Hong Kong representatives in China’s legislature have vowed to push the local government to enact national security legislation within the next five years, as nominations opened on Friday for a local poll to elect 36 deputies to the Beijing body next month.

National People’s Congress deputies Cheng Yiu-tong and Stanley Ng Chau-pei, both from the pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions, also promised to urge the central government to roll out more policy initiatives for Hong Kong residents working or living across the border in Guangdong province.

A panel of 1,989 Hong Kong electors, including about 300 pan-democrats, are to choose the 36 deputies by block vote on December 19. Nominations close on December 4.

About a third of the current Hong Kong deputies are unlikely to seek re-election in the five-yearly contest. Those expected to sit out include the delegation’s convenor, Maria Tam Wai-chu, who has been a deputy since 1998.

However, Cheng, who has served on the legislature for almost three decades, said he planned to join Ng in signing up on Tuesday for the election.

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Cheng, 69, said his priority for the next five years would be to submit recommendations regarding Beijing’s “Greater Bay Area” project, a scheme to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into an integrated economic powerhouse.

“We hope that Hongkongers working and living there will receive ‘national treatment’, such as watching the city’s television programmes freely,” he added.

The people’s call for Article 23 legislation is getting louder
Cheng Yiu-tong, National People’s Congress deputy

TV viewers can watch Hong Kong programmes in Guangdong, but the signals for newscasts are occasionally blocked so that content deemed sensitive on the mainland does not air.

Cheng said he would urge Hong Kong officials to enact national security legislation, as stipulated under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

“The people’s call for Article 23 legislation is getting louder ... and deputies like us need to reflect their demand.”

A move to pass national security legislation was shelved in 2003 after half a million people protested, fearing for their liberties. Last week, the debate was reignited by Li Fei, a senior Beijing official who specialises in the Basic Law. Li said Hong Kong was paying the price for the delay, with independence advocates exploiting the lack of a national security law.

Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung responded that the government would enact the legislation when there was “a suitable environment and sufficient time”.

But Ng said local officials “must not just wait for the suitable environment to emerge” and should “start preparing for it”.

Apart from Cheng and Ng, five Beijing loyalists formally joined the race on Friday by submitting their nominations.

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They are incumbent deputies David Wong Yau-kar, Tim Lui Tim-leung and Cheung Ming-man; lawyer Maggie Chan Man-ki; and businessman Thomas Cheung Tsun-yung, a member of the political party Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong.

Chan, founding president of the Small and Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong, made her name during the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy protests of 2014, when she helped minibus operators seek a court injunction against protesters encamped in the shopping district of Mong Kok.

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“A lawyer’s historic and professional mission is to safeguard national sovereignty ... and the rule of law without fear,” she said.

Former lawmaker Tam Yiu-chung and several deputies, including Michael Tien Puk-sun, also visited the election office in Sheung Wan on Friday to collect application forms.