Hong Kong localism and independence

National security law should only sanction Hong Kong leaders and politicians, not everyday people, lawmaker says

Democratic Party chairman argues existing public order laws can address anyone who resorts to concrete actions to advocate independence

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 September, 2018, 5:06pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 September, 2018, 5:06pm

The national security law in Hong Kong should solely sanction the city’s leaders, ministers and lawmakers, not everyday residents, the head of a major opposition party has urged.

Democratic Party chairman and lawmaker Wu Chi-wai on Saturday said his suggestion that only acts of subversion or secession perpetrated by political figures be criminalised would strike a balance between the human rights of ordinary citizens and Beijing’s concerns about national security.

“A major concern of Beijing’s is the use of freedom of speech to seize power and gain independence, so criminalising such acts would prevent any separatist from achieving power,” Wu said.

“But existing public order laws can already address anyone who resorts to concrete actions to advocate independence.”

Under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, Hong Kong is obliged to enact its own law to prohibit acts of “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” against the central government. Previous attempts to advance the legislation in 2003 drew half a million people to the streets in protest, forcing the government to shelve the bill.

However, Beijing has signalled impatience in recent years over the lack of a dedicated national security law. And this month, Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council, cited a speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club by Andy Chan Ho-tin, leader of the separatist Hong Kong National Party, as pointing up “inadequacies” in existing national security protection.

A think tank led by former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing last week proposed carrying out a simultaneous consultation on political reform and a national security law.

Wu said during a radio programme on Saturday he believed implementing universal suffrage should take precedence over Article 23 legislation. And he believed limiting criminal sanctions to key officials could block any separatist from gaining power.

The administration, he added, should prioritise housing and livelihood issues while leaving Article 23 legislation untouched.

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But Starry Lee Wai-king, chairwoman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, rejected Wu’s suggestion. Lee said a new political situation had emerged that was different from 2003, noting the presence of the Hong Kong National Party.

“There is an urgency to enact national security law amid the new situation,” she argued. “The administration should start consultation on Article 23 legislation within this term of office.”

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Lee believed promoting the economy and internet security should come before any bill is put forward.

Both lawmakers voiced scepticism towards Tsang and his think tank’s proposal for a joint consultation. Lee said she could not see a government dealing with the two complicated issues at the same time, no matter how capable it was.

Wu believed Tsang needed to elaborate what kind of political reform he had in mind.