BEIJING, Nov 2, 2019, Global Times. Thursday’s communiqué of the just-concluded key meeting of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and Friday’s press conference, which emphasized the need for better legislation and a law-enforcement mechanism in special administrative regions (SARs), are believed to send a strong signal that the central government will continue to exercise its comprehensive governance to safeguard national security in Hong Kong, Global Times reported.
Shen Chunyao, director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee and the Basic Law Committee of Hong Kong and Macao, stressed at a press conference on the fourth plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee in Beijing that the central government will continue to exercise its full governance over Hong Kong and Macao in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, and will never tolerate any challenge to the “one country, two systems” principle.
Lawrence Tang Fei, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said inviting an official in charge of legislation in Hong Kong and Macao to the press conference sends a strong signal that the central government will continue adhering to “one country, two systems” and governing Hong Kong by the Constitution and the Basic Law, while strengthening the implementation and improvement of the national security legislation and enforcement mechanism in the SARs.
The former eliminates concerns about whether “one country, two systems” will waver, while the latter, in view of the current chaos in Hong Kong, proposes to implement the legal system to safeguard national security, said Tang, which means Hong Kong will not shrink from the difficulties caused by the current unrest triggered by the extradition bill.
In the report of the 19th CPC National Congress, while talking about legal issues in the SARs, it stated that it is imperative to “act in strict compliance with China’s Constitution and the basic laws of the two special administrative regions, and improve the systems and mechanisms for enforcing the basic laws.” The word “national security” was not mentioned.
The communiqué of the fourth plenary session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in 2014 said “We must, in accordance with the law, safeguard the practice of ‘one country, two systems,’ promote the reunification of our country, ensure that Hong Kong and Macao enjoy lasting prosperity and stability, push forward with the peaceful reunification of our country, and protect the rights and interests of our fellow countrymen and countrywomen in Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan.”
Experts noted that the change in the latest communiqué is a clear and firm sign especially to Hong Kong, since Macao has already passed an article in its basic law on national security. They added that for foreign forces responsible for the turmoil in the city, the central government will deal with the problem seriously, and this is also a promise the Party made to the Chinese people.
Following the release of a communiqué on Thursday, the new instruction on the principle of the “one country, two systems” which emphasizes the need to establish and improve “the legal system and law-enforcement mechanism in the special administrative regions to safeguard national security” has drawn wide attention.
Shen explained at Friday’s press conference that the central government will improve the system and mechanism for appointing and removing the chief executive and principal officials of SARs. While establishing and improving the legal systems and enforcement mechanisms for the SARs to safeguard national security, the central government will support the regions in strengthening their own law-enforcement powers, he said.
Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan studies from Nankai University in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Friday that it may be the first time for the phrase – “establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanism of the special administrative region for safeguarding national security” to appear in a CPC Central Committee’s document.
On the one hand, it shows that the CPC Central Committee is aware of the problems and shortcomings in the governance of Hong Kong. On the other hand, it also fully demonstrates the CPC Central Committee’s determination and confidence in shouldering its responsibilities in the governance of the SARs, Li said. More importantly, the new phrase provides several possibilities for Hong Kong to solve its problems on national security legislation: Hong Kong can draw lessons from the successful experience of Macao, or as Hong Kong has failed to assume the responsibility of safeguarding national security based on the Basic Law and the city faces a serious governance crisis, which have exposed loopholes in its system, the central government has to issue a legal system and improve the mechanism for national governance concerns.
After Hong Kong’s return to China, the city has still not enacted a national security regulation to prohibit treason, secession, sedition and subversion, as required by the Basic Law.
Chinese experts have been urging Hong Kong’s legislative body to pass the national security provision of Article 23 of the Basic Law for some time, because without it, Hong Kong can only impose a lighter sentence on “Occupy Central” activists who illegally and violently interrupted social order.
Macao returned from Portugal to China in 1999, and the city passed the national security law, which took effect on March 3, 2009. The law fulfilled Article 23 of the Macao Basic Law.
Shen also pledged to improve the system and mechanism in SARs relevant to the implementation of the Constitution and the Basic Law to enhance the region’s governance capability under the principle of “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong” and “Macao people governing Macao,” with patriots as the mainstay.
He stressed that China will resolutely guard against and contain foreign interference in Hong Kong and Macao affairs, and will prevent and curb any separatist, subversive infiltration and sabotage activities.
Li said the months-long turmoil in Hong Kong showed a serious and basic problem – extreme local political forces can collude with foreign forces deeply and even act jointly.
This makes Hong Kong a “frontline of the battle zone” for the struggle between China and foreign forces, Li noted. “This kind of connection makes it possible for the foreign forces to interfere in Hong Kong’s governance. And they can also indirectly interrupt China’s overall development, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area strategy.”
Hong Kong separatists have already started to collude with Taiwan secessionists, and they are coordinating with foreign forces to clash with China, which threatens China’s sovereignty, national security and development, Li added.
The central government also vowed to help Hong Kong and Macao blend into the country’s overall development, and to support the regions’ economies and livelihoods. It pledged to strengthen education in Hong Kong and Macao society, particularly for public servants and youth in terms of knowing the Constitution, Basic Law, national conditions, Chinese history and culture.
Tang said the stress on enhancing education, especially among civil servants, was also a highlight of the press conference, which is the “cure” for the problems, including protests against the extradition bill by many Hong Kong civil servants.