China is imposing a national security law in Hong Kong because the island’s legislature failed to pass one, according to a Hong Kong official.
Bernard Chan, a deputy to the National People’s Congress, said that Hong Kong’s authorities have not been able to develop a national security law for over 20 years.
“In fact, it is a failure at the legislature that we have not delivered this national security law for 23 years,” said Chan during an interview on CNBC’s “Street Signs.”
“Basically, the mainland has delegated that legislation to us, to Hong Kong, to do ourselves but we failed in 23 years,” he added.
Last week, the Chinese government announced a draft national security law that will be directly implemented in Hong Kong. This move sparked concerns about exercising liberties in the special administrative region and led to protests in the weekend.
The draft law aims to address acts of secession, subverting state power and organizing and carrying out terrorist activities. It will also protect the region from the intrusion of foreign or external forces.
The Basic Law
Chan affirms that the Hong Kong government should be the one to come up with a national security law in accordance with Article 23 of the territory’s mini constitution, the Basic Law. However, the Hong Kong failed to do so. Mass protests have stopped a previous attempt to introduce national security legislation in Hong Kong in 2003.
While some would argue that introducing the legislation should not be quick, “this is before last year,” said Chan.
Beijing believes a national security law must be passed right away due to serious national security issues in Hong Kong. These issues are rooted in the social unrest caused by protests over a scrapped extradition bill.
“After the last year, there are now serious security issues they need to address. It’s hard to pass legislation in Hong Kong these days, so the central government is taking the initiative and going forward with it,” said Chan.
Beijing is expected to introduce the law through Article 18 of the Basic Law. According to the law, national laws can be imposed on Hong Kong if they are under Annex III and related to defense, foreign affairs, or “other matters outside the limits” of Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The Hong Kong government must lay down its own national security law under Article 23, but it would be “very difficult,” said Chan. He added that the proposed national security legislation was not a circumvention of the law.
Chan noted that Beijing prioritizes national security and that the central government works on helping Hong Kong to go back to its normalcy.
“We are seeing things like acts of terrorism in Hong Kong, and what matters to China today now are issues such like secession; we are seeing people holding flags asking for Hong Kong independence, we are seeing signs where people will actually want to subvert state power or against the Central People’s Government and clearly, we also see there is meddling from foreign countries, foreign influences,” Chan said.
Chan pointed out that Hong Kong has no right to decide whether it wants a national security law or not.
“That piece of legislation (on) national security has always been a part of the constitutional obligation to Hong Kong. China delegated that obligation to us to deliver but we failed to deliver,” he said. He also emphasized that it was “only logical” China steps up and carry out the law as Hong Kong officials failed to do so.
“It’s not like Hong Kong can have a choice of choosing to legislate or not legislate. There has never been a choice.”