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Sunday, Jul 14, 2024

Beijing to interpret Hong Kong’s national security law, top official says

Beijing to interpret Hong Kong’s national security law, top official says

Chief Executive John Lee welcomes move, says he ‘earnestly’ awaits outcome of deliberation.

A senior Beijing official has said the country’s top legislative body will soon interpret Hong Kong’s national security law, putting an end to weeks of speculation about how the central government may handle the matter.

According to state news agency Xinhua, the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee on Tuesday listened to an explanation by Xia Baolong, director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, over a motion on the city’s request for an interpretation of “relevant articles” of the law.

No further details on how the legislation will be interpreted were made public.

Xia Baolong is the director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

Xia announced the decision to interpret the law on the first day of a four-day meeting of the standing committee which was presided over by Li Zhanshu, chairman of the top legislative body, and held in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. A total of 136 standing committee members attended the event either in person or virtually.

The move came after weeks of silence from Beijing on how the matter would be handled, as political heavyweights speculated possible ways the issue would be resolved, with the topic noticeably absent in the top legislative body’s usual agenda.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Tuesday thanked the central government for accepting his suggestion to interpret the law.

He added he would “earnestly await the outcome of the [standing committee’s] deliberation”.

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to the standing committee, confirmed to the Post that he had attended the meeting and that the matter was discussed, but declined to share further details about it before Friday.

Tam previously said he was unsure if the topic would be a part of the agenda, adding that it was not an urgent matter as the relevant court case was postponed to next September.

The saga was triggered after jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying hired British King’s Counsel Timothy Owen to defend him against charges of collusion with foreign forces under the security law.

Barrister Timothy Owen (right) had been hired by tycoon Jimmy Lai.

The Department of Justice repeatedly asked the courts to deny the arrangement, on a range of grounds including the risk that a foreign national could learn state secrets during the trial, but the top court ruled Lai was entitled to his choice of counsel.

Lee later requested the standing committee for an interpretation of the law following the ruling, with his decision being supported by Beijing’s offices overseeing the city’s affairs, which said the court’s decision had violated “the legislative spirit and legal logic” of the security legislation.

The law, written by Beijing and imposed on Hong Kong in 2020, targets crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The drafters gave the standing committee the right to interpret the law, although that power has not yet been exercised.

Legal heavyweights such as Priscilla Leung Mei-fun earlier suggested there was no need for the central government to interpret the law, instead local authorities could rely on other mechanisms within the legislation to handle the matter.


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