Major officials in relevant departments of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government on Sunday voiced support for a draft law on safeguarding national security in the HKSAR deliberated by China's top legislature.
Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung stressed in a blog article that it is extremely necessary and urgent for the National People's Congress to decide to establish and improve at the state level the HKSAR's legal system and enforcement mechanisms to safeguard national security.
Hong Kong was ranked fifth globally last year in the World Competitiveness Yearbook 2020 recently published by the Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development, down from the second.
"This highlights the importance of social stability and security to Hong Kong's competitiveness and long-term economic development," Cheung said, adding that Hong Kong's hard-earned stability and economic success will be difficult to sustain if those advocating "Hong Kong independence" and violence continue to undermine social stability.
"The legislation will not affect Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy under 'one country, two systems' and will respect and safeguard the rights and freedoms applicable to Hong Kong in accordance with the HKSAR Basic Law and relevant international conventions," he said, urging Hong Kong residents to support the legislation so as to safeguard "one country, two systems" and restore stability in Hong Kong.
Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng said in a statement that the decision adopted by the National People's Congress (NPC) on the national security legislation for Hong Kong only aims to prevent, curb and sanction an extremely small minority of criminals who threaten national security, so as to safeguard the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and the implementation of "one country, two systems".
Hong Kong has experienced social unrest with frequent violence over the past year, and there is even advocacy of "Hong Kong independence", Cheng noted, adding that in view of the increasingly serious situation the HKSAR is facing in relation to national security and the difficulty of the executive and legislative authorities of the HKSAR to complete on their own legislation for safeguarding national security in the foreseeable future, there is the need and emergency for the NPC to take steps at the national level to improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR to safeguard national security.
The draft law was submitted for deliberation at the 19th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th NPC from Thursday to Saturday. An official of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee made an explanatory statement on the draft law at the session.
The explanatory statement clearly points out that the HKSAR, in safeguarding national security, should respect and protect human rights and freedoms which are applicable in Hong Kong under the Basic Law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Cheng noted.
"I will lead the Department of Justice to provide full support to the legislative work for safeguarding national security in the HKSAR," she said.
Secretary for Security John Lee and heads of the HKSAR government's six disciplined services departments said in a statement that they fully support the legislation, and the secretary for security will lead the disciplinary forces to discharge their duties, ensuring the effective implementation of the relevant law in Hong Kong for safeguarding national security.
The legislation aims to prevent, curb and sanction criminal acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces which endanger national security. It will only target an extremely small minority of criminals who endanger national security, while the safety and basic rights of the vast majority of law-abiding Hong Kong residents will be protected, the statement said.
The draft law requires the protection of the rights of suspects, as well as the legitimate rights enjoyed by members of the public, legal persons or organizations in accordance with the Basic Law, the statement noted, stressing that the relevant legislation will not affect the various rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents under the law.
"Each country has its national security laws and specific enforcement agencies. It is the duty of every responsible government to have such laws," Lee said.
"Safeguarding national security and the rule of law in Hong Kong is the cornerstone to maintain 'one country, two systems', ensuring the long-term stability and safety of Hong Kong," he said.