Zhou Bajun writes that recent events in the HKSAR prove that prompt enactment of a national security law according to Article 23 is imperative
In a gazette published by the special administrative region government on Monday, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu used the powers vested by the Societies Ordinance to ban the operations of the Hong Kong National Party, a local separatist group. This will immediately take effect upon the announcement.
In truth, a great degree of leniency had already been offered when Lee informed the HKNP he would allow the party to make a representation within 21 days after the Security Bureau expressed its intention to ban its operations on July 17. Lee subsequently extended the period on three occasions.
Some members of the opposition camp voiced their objections — citing the Societies Ordinance for such a prohibition. They claimed that the “draconian” law — inherited from the British colonial government — was being used to stymie freedom of expression and association. The SAR government has repeatedly stressed that such freedom must conform to the Basic Law. Unfortunately, the mission and political actions adopted by the HKNP to separate Hong Kong from Chinese soil has constituted a threat to the rights and freedoms of others. Likewise, its political agenda is a clear violation to Article 1 of the Basic Law, which stipulates that “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China”. Therefore, the decision to prohibit its operations is irrelevant to freedom of expression and association.
The mission and political actions adopted by the HKNP to separate Hong Kong from Chinese soil has constituted a threat to the rights and freedoms of others ... Therefore, the decision to prohibit its operations is irrelevant to freedom of expression and association
Invoking the Societies Ordinance to ban the HKNP not only complies with Article 8 of the Basic Law, which states that the laws previously in force in Hong Kong shall be maintained except for any that contravene the Basic Law or subject to any amendment by the legislature of the Hong Kong SAR. It also highlights the fact that the SAR government has to resort to the existing laws to combat increasingly flagrant separatism forces in the city. This is because the SAR has yet to enact a law according to Article 23 of the Basic Law to safeguard national security after 21 years of its return to China.
Lee provided justifiable answers to three important questions in front of the media on Monday morning. The first one concerns whether “self-determination” is equivalent to “Hong Kong independence”. The secretary made it clear that promoting secessionism under any rhetoric bear no difference among them. The second question is whether the government will enforce legal action against the HKNP subsequent to the banning of its operations. Lee replied that law enforcement agencies will begin to tackle the group’s activities although details of such prosecution actions will not be disclosed to the public. The last question addresses the legal liability of personnel who advocate separatism outside the country. Lee was unequivocal in this respect, declaring that under the Societies Ordinance, members of the relevant association will be subject to the Societies Ordinance as long as they are Hong Kong residents.
The three answers provided by the secretary for security suggest that the leader and core members of the HKNP are prohibited from promoting separatism in countries or places outside Hong Kong.
There are indications that the chief executive will likely initiate legislative procedures of Article 23 of the Basic Law following the election of the seventh-term Legislative Council in 2020. This implies that the city will still be susceptible to insufficient legal protection against separatism in the next two to three years.
The SAR government has recently disclosed its rental property lease agreement with the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Nevertheless, it has not expressed its stance on citing related contract provisions to revoke the lease agreement with the FCC. The parties involved understand that FCC paid no heed to the opposition voiced by both the central government and the SAR government over the luncheon speech of Andy Chan Ho-tin inside FCC’s premises. Not only did the FCC provide a platform for promoting separatism, but it also arranged live streaming for Chan’s secessionist speech. In reality, it had already facilitated the HKNP in dividing Hong Kong from the nation. The move symbolizes the first step taken by foreign powers to conspire with HKNP to advance its separatist agenda. If such action is left unchecked, Hong Kong will become a base for foreign forces to subvert China. Should the government believe there is no relevant law to impose sanctions and deterrence against such separatist maneuvers, this will serve as proof that prompt enactment of a national security law according to Article 23 is imperative.
The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.
HONG KONG NEWS