I’m extremely diffident about commenting on Hong Kong’s new Security Law, with all the negative Western media commentary and protests of Hong Kong democrats. But it’s an important development for China to have acted in this way, and it can’t be ignored although I have not yet seen an official English text of the law.
Firstly, it’s unfortunate that Hong Kong doesn’t have existing laws in place to “prevent and punish acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces” having had 23 years in which to deal with the problem in its own way. Most other countries have had similar laws in place for at least 20 years (since 9/11) and they are constantly being strengthened and applied to deal with real and/or perceived threats against the national interest. HK Chief Executive Carrie Lam was right to say “I urge the international community to respect our country’s right to safeguard national security and Hong Kong people’s aspirations for stability and harmony.” It’s hard to imagine any other Government putting up with the extreme violence and destruction that took place on the streets of Hong Kong last year. China, having so recently resumed sovereignty, was troubled by those openly campaigning for Hong Kong’s independence.
Having said that, the manner in which these laws have been imposed on Hong Kong by China is of concern and appears to undermine the “high degree of autonomy” promised in the Joint Declaration and the “One Country Two Systems” that has existed since 1997. I can see that this would attract criticism and concern from all who care about Hong Kong and its people, and that includes many people I know and love.
Having scanned much of what’s been written in the international media yesterday, I think that the last word on this topic, at least for now, should go to the editor of the local paper, the South China Morning Post who wrote “Beijing’s priority may be to put the law in place rather than have to use it. That would be an ideal outcome. But it is only to be expected that elements have still troubled some people, such as mainland jurisdiction over certain “rare” cases that will be tried across the border. It remains to be seen whether, after so much social unrest, the economic devastation of coronavirus measures and divisive controversy over the national security law, Hong Kong can recover economic momentum and enhance its status as a financial centre. To win the hearts and minds of Hongkongers is a tough assignment and will take time”.