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Friday, May 22, 2020, 10:49
Legislation delivering national security will result in a safer SAR
By ​Chan Tak-leung
Friday, May 22, 2020, 10:49 By ​Chan Tak-leung

The 17th-century phrase “Do as I say, not as I do” was initially deployed by preachers to their followers. It is apt to borrow this phrase to describe how the same approach is currently being adopted by Hong Kong’s “pro-democracy” activists and their overseas supporters. They have fiercely and consistently demonstrated their opposition to the enactment of a national security law according to Article 23 of the Basic Law, while continuing to breach law and social order in the SAR with illegal assemblies and vandalism to property and infrastructure.

It is, however, obvious that a common thread in their objections is not only unconstitutional and hypocritical but also deceptive and misleading, to say the least. To begin with, those who raised objections to the enactment of a national security law applicable in the HKSAR in and out of Hong Kong share a common goal — to continue their claims that “one country, two systems” is not working. Their opposition has been aimed at jeopardizing Beijing’s legitimate right to exercise sovereignty over the SAR ever since the proposed national security bill was withdrawn in 2003.

The British government has always maintained that under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, it is duty-bound to monitor Hong Kong for 50 years. To this end, it has continued to produce biannual reports and presented them to the British Parliament since June 1997. The perception that such reports are necessary under the Joint Declaration for 50 years is misguided and wrong.

As history never lies, there is a need to refer to events that led to Britain’s successive foreign secretaries erroneously believing they had a duty to produce these biannual reports as part of Britain’s commitment to ensure China faithfully delivers its commitments to the SAR. 

Those who raised objections to the enactment of a national security law applicable in the HKSAR in and out of Hong Kong share a common goal — to continue their claims that “one country, two systems” is not working. Their opposition has been aimed at jeopardizing Beijing’s legitimate right to exercise sovereignty over the SAR ever since the proposed national security bill was withdrawn in 2003

The author of the very first biannual report to Parliament that covered the period of January to June 1997 was the late foreign secretary Robin Cook. In his opening paragraph, he said, “I have reaffirmed the undertaking given by the previous Government to report to Parliament at six-monthly intervals on the implementation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong. This first report covers the period January-June 1997. The reports will continue at least as long as the Joint Liaison Group, that is until 1 January 2000.”

It therefore makes you wonder why the latest biannual report for the period January to June 2019 was needed — as the Joint Liaison Group ceased operations over 20 years ago, in 1999! There must be either a serious misunderstanding or an administrative error that resulted in reports continuing to be written, produced and submitted to Parliament by no fewer than eight successive foreign secretaries, including current Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. I wonder why no one has bothered to inform successive foreign secretaries that the need to submit biannual reports on Hong Kong to Parliament were meant to have stopped 20 years ago — in 1999, to be precise.

Returning to the national security legislation, Lord David Pannick QC, the eminent British barrister, was asked by the Department of Justice of Hong Kong in 2002 to see whether the proposed legislation according to Article 23 of the Basic Law was consistent with accepted rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, freedom of association, as well as other rights protected by Articles 27 and 39 of the Basic Law.

Article 23 spells out the prohibition of “any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organisations or bodies from conducting political activities in the region, and to prohibit political organisations or bodies of the region from establishing ties with foreign political organisations or bodies.” I believe that most decent and law-abiding residents of Hong Kong will have no problem at all living and working in the SAR under these rules. Those who oppose its enactment are people who want to resort to discord and violence to achieve their separatist goals.

Articles 27 and 29 are about rights of citizens, including rights to have freedom of speech, of the press and of publication; of association, assembly, procession and demonstration and the right and freedom to form and join trade unions and to strike; as well as rights under the various international covenant on political, social, cultural and labor conventions. Again, I would suggest that most Hong Kong residents would not find any of these rights objectionable at all.

Lord Pannick confirmed in his report that he is “satisfied that the contents of the proposals are consistent with human rights law”. He also emphasized that “if and when the enacted provisions are applied, it will be essential to ensure that the application is consistent with fundamental freedoms on the specific facts of the individual case”. His Lordship further assured that “none of the provisions set out are objectionable as a matter of legal principle”. I therefore look forward to seeing a national security law being enacted according to Article 23 soon to deliver a safer Hong Kong to everyone.

The author was the first-ever Chinese British citizen to be elected mayor of the London Borough of Redbridge (2009-10) and served as a member of the Borough Council for 12 years.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.


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