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Monday, Nov 30, 2020

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam demands international respect for the legislation as it is added to city’s Basic Law

National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Tuesday unanimously passed the legislation before President Xi Jinping signed it into law. Carrie Lam urges the global community to accept the legislation targeting secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor called on the international community on Tuesday to respect the national security law that Beijing had passed for the city, as the legislation was added to its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

In a video message to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, Lam said: “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.”

The legislation would only target an extremely small minority of people who had broken the law, while the basic rights and freedoms of the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong residents would be protected, the city’s chief executive said in a recorded message released during the 44th regulation session of the council.

Beijing’s top legislative body on Tuesday morning unanimously passed the sweeping law for Hong Kong prohibiting acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.

It is expected to carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and take effect later on Tuesday, the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the city’s handover to China from British rule.

The Post understands the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) also unanimously endorsed on Tuesday afternoon the addition of the legislation into Annex III of the Basic Law. In the early evening, state media reported President Xi Jinping had signed the legislation into law.

During Lam’s video message, she accused foreign governments and politicians who had raised objections to the legislation of double standards.

“All those countries which are pointing their fingers at China have their own national security legislation in place,” she said.

“We can think of no valid reason why China alone should be inhibited from enacting a national security legislation to protect every corner of its territory and all of its nation,” she said.

“I welcome this opportunity to state our position on the enactment of the legislation of national security law for HKSAR [Hong Kong Special Administrative Region].”

Sources told the Post the law was approved by all 162 members of the standing committee within 15 minutes of the meeting starting at 9am.

Only a handful of Hong Kong delegates to the national legislature saw a draft of the law before its passage, a major point of contention, with many in the city decrying the lack of transparency given the legislation’s far-reaching consequences.

On Sunday, the standing committee began a three-day special meeting fast-tracking the bill.

Xinhua, the official state news agency, said the details of the legislation would be published later on Tuesday, which would mark the first time the law was in the public domain.

All Hong Kong delegates to the nation’s top advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and the NPC, were asked to attend a meeting, believed to be a briefing on the bill, at the central government’s liaison office at 3pm.

Passage of the contentious legislation came a day after Beijing announced visa restrictions on United States officials who have “behaved extremely badly” over Hong Kong.

Beijing and Washington had been locked in an escalating diplomatic row over the year-long anti-government protests in Hong Kong and the national security law.

The US earlier vowed to strip Hong Kong of its preferential trade status, and had enacted visa restrictions on Chinese officials deemed responsible for undermining local autonomy and freedoms.

Lam ducks questions on new national security law

Shortly before 10am, at her weekly media briefing, Lam said she would not answer questions on the new law until it was passed by the NPCSC, and had been listed in Annex III, for her government to promulgate it.

“It would be inappropriate for me to answer any questions and explain [the law] at this stage,” she said.

“What I can say is that when the law has been approved … My principal officials and myself will try our best to respond to questions about the law, especially those related to implementation and enforcement.”

Lam said any warnings from the US or other foreign governments to impose sanctions over the matter “would not scare Hong Kong”, and the Hong Kong government would fully cooperate with Beijing on any potential countermeasures.

“A group of Hongkongers have always begged for foreign governments, especially the US, to intervene in local affairs or to impose sanctions over Hong Kong … we are always ready if the central government retaliates, and we will fully cooperate if there are any sanctions taken by the central government,” she said.

Lam is expected to meet the press on Wednesday, after the law has already come into effect. According to a source no details of the new legislation were discussed at the council meeting because “the Hong Kong government has not read the final version of the law yet”.

Wong, Law and Chow quit Demosisto party

Shortly after the law was passed in Beijing, key members of the Demosisto party – Joshua Wong Chi-fung, Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Agnes Chow Ting – announced they had quit the group.

“When the national security law is approaching with the People’s Liberation Army demonstrating a sniper ‘decapitation’, it is no longer nonsense to worry about life and safety in engaging democratic resistance in Hong Kong,” Wong wrote on his Facebook page.

“I now announce that I have resigned as secretary general of Demosisto, and quit the party at the same time. I will practise my beliefs in a personal capacity.”

Wong said he believed Hongkongers’ perseverance would not be frozen by the new law or any other “draconian laws”.

“I will continue to stay at my home – Hong Kong, until they silence and wipe me out,” Wong said.

Law, the disqualified lawmaker, also said he would now participate in any future movement in a personal capacity, while Chow said she would no longer engage with the international community.

Demosisto is believed to be one of the prime targets of the law, as Wong played a major role in lobbying US politicians for their support to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act last year.

He testified in a commission in the United States Capitol and met the Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in September last year, which drew public criticism from Chinese state media.

Lawmaker’s concern over potential impact of US tech move

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said the US halting exports of dual-use technologies to Hong Kong could have far-reaching consequences for the city’s tech industry.

“The terms of the revocation are still unclear as most of the technology imported by Hong Kong is for civilian use, such as communications and data devices used by universities,” said Mok, speaking on RTHK’s morning radio show. “Will they need to apply for licences for every piece of equipment separately?”

“The definition set by the US seems very wide, and on a certain level it may end up forcing people into buying Chinese-made products. So it remains to be seen whether the US will really bar all Hong Kong imports,” he said.

While software or technology from Europe was also available, Mok said companies would be incurring additional costs to switch from one software to another. He also said it did not mean residents would no longer be able to buy ordinary mobile phones or computers, rather high-end commercial devices would be most affected.

“Not being able to import military equipment is probably not the biggest concern to the industry at the moment,” he added.

Amnesty International issues statement on new law

Amnesty International described the passage of the law as “the greatest threat to human rights in the city’s recent history”.

“The speed and secrecy with which China has pushed through this legislation intensifies the fear that Beijing has calculatingly created a weapon of repression to be used against government critics, including people who are merely expressing their views or protesting peacefully,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, the group’s head of China team.

He also feared the law could be used against pro-democracy candidates in the upcoming Legislative Council elections.

Taiwan promises dynamic response to new legislation

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council has issued a highly critical statement, saying the national security law was another means for Beijing to tighten its control over Hong Kong, and further erode the city’s autonomy, freedoms, and rule of law.

It noted the US move to suspend the city’s special status, and stressed that Taipei was closely following the situation in Hong Kong, which it treated as a special territory different to mainland China.

“The MAC will annually assess Hong Kong’s freedoms, human rights, as well as its political, economic, and social development at various levels as the basis for reviewing the status and policies for Hong Kong,” the council said.

“In view of the Chinese Communist Party insistence on pushing forward the national security law to alter the situation in Hong Kong, the council will continue to closely monitor relevant developments and respond dynamically.”

Basic Law Committee meets in Beijing

The Basic Law Committee, which advises the NPCSC on Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, met in Beijing on Tuesday morning, according to a source.

It is understood it was consulted about the addition of the security law into Annex III of the Basic Law before the NPCSC did so.
Speaking in the Chinese capital, standing committee member Tam Yiu-chung said the full text of the new law would be unveiled on Tuesday evening.

He declined to comment on whether the law would be enforced retroactively to prosecute Joshua Wong and other political activists who quit their party earlier in the day.

But he said: “The law is to prevent, stop and punish acts that threaten national security … so people who have been causing trouble in the past should be careful from now on. They will bear the criminal responsibility if they test the law.

“The central government hopes that with this law, violent protests will not re-emerge in Hong Kong. If the city becomes a base for collusion with foreign forces, ‘one country, two systems’ would also be jeopardised.”

Delegates previously revealed that the law would stipulate that Beijing would only exercise its jurisdiction in Hong Kong under three conditions that had yet to be revealed.

Tam said only that they would be “extreme conditions that Hong Kong could not handle”.

Opposition lawmakers request urgent meeting with Lam

In a joint letter to Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, 22 opposition lawmakers made an urgent request for a special question and answer session with Carrie Lam on the new law.

“It has been reported that the law will be gazetted today, and take effect tomorrow,” they wrote.

“We demand that you convene a special session immediately, request the chief executive to attend, listen to the opinion of Legco, and submit the opinion to the NPCSC.”

Pro-independence group disbands Hong Kong operation

Hong Kong National Front, a pro-independence activist group led by former lawmaker Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang, is to shut down its operation in the city.

In a Facebook post, the group, which was formed in 2015, said it would continue to promote Hong Kong independence from its bases in Taipei and Britain.

“Today is not marking a finishing point, but only the first half of the match. The centre of the resistance will be shifted to overseas,” it said. “We wonder how much combat power China still has when the battle is no longer in the territory.”

Professor believes impact of US tech move will be limited

Professor Wong Kam-fai, associate dean at Chinese University’s Faculty of Engineering, expressed “cautious optimism” over the scope of US restrictions on dual-use technologies.

And Wong said he thought any impact would be limited on university research given the many substitutes available from mainland China and in Asia.

“For some dual-use technologies such as 5G and GPS, there are already substitutes [from Chinese telecommunications and information technology companies such as ZTE and Huawei],” Wong said.

“Although in the short term, adjustments might be needed, I believe in the medium and long run there shall not be too many problems.”

He admitted however that in some areas such as chip fabrication, the US has been more advanced although mainland China has been catching up in the past years.

“In the field of research, we should be open-minded. If it happens that there are not many substitutes for particular items, we can be open to source from elsewhere.”

Police break up small-scale protest in shopping centre

Dozens of police officers descended on Landmark Mall in Central to break up a small protest against the national security law at lunchtime on Tuesday.

Police officers equipped with protective gear and recording devices set up a cordon in the atrium of the iconic shopping centre and searched a handful of people.

Responding to Beijing’s passing of the security law, a few dozen protesters were scattered around the complex chanting slogans and singing songs.

HK$1 million rewards for information on security law offenders

Former Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying has said bounties of up to HK$1 million (US$129,000) would be offered to anyone who provided information aiding the arrest of “national security law offenders”.

The financial rewards would also be available for those offering useful details on “anyone who has fled” the city, he said.

Leung, who is the vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, country’s top advisory body, wrote on Facebook that the money would come from the 803 fund.

The fund is linked to a website the city’s former leader set up last year to reward those who helped with the arrest and prosecution of anti-government protesters.

Opposition groups Demosisto, Studentlocalism disband in Hong Kong

Demosisto, the opposition party co-founded by Joshua Wong, has dropped a bombshell to announce the closure of its operations in Hong Kong, effective from Tuesday.

The move came hours after Wong and other core members announced they were quitting the party in the wake of the passing of the security law.

“Demosisto believes that the operation of our group will no longer be sustainable, with a strong feeling there is a need to fragment, so that everyone can continue with the resistance in a more flexible manner,” the group announced through a Facebook post.

Its current chairman is Ivan Lam Long-yin, with Wong the former secretary general. Nathan Law Kwun-chung and Jeffrey Ngo, the group’s standing committee members, and Agnes Chow Ting, a member, announced their resignations on Tuesday morning.

Studentlocalism, a pro-independence group formed by students in 2016, followed suit shortly after. It said they would establish branches in Taiwan, America and Australia.

“Effective from today, all members in Hong Kong will be dismissed and all its affairs will be passed on to members overseas to continue with the operation,” the political group said.

The group was founded by student Tony Chung Hon-lam, who began advocating localism four years ago when he was still in secondary school. The group has more than 17,000 followers on its Facebook page.

Seoul registers concerns over security law

South Korea has expressed concern over the potential fallout from the passage of the security law on its economic ties with Hong Kong, as well as over the city’s autonomy.

“Hong Kong is an important entity that has close human and economic exchanges with us. The government is closely watching the development and future impact following the passage of the national security law,” the Foreign Ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said.

“The government respects the 1984 joint statement by China and the UK and we believe it is important for Hong Kong to continue developing amid stability while enjoying its high degree of autonomy under the one country, two systems principle,” he said in a regular press briefing.

“Stable and cooperative ties between the US and China are crucial for peace and prosperity in the northeast Asia and the world. The government supports diplomatic efforts to maintain cooperative ties between the two countries,” he added.

Britain ‘deeply concerned’ over security law

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “We are deeply concerned by unconfirmed reports that Beijing has passed the national security law. This would be a grave step.

“Once we have seen the full legislation, we will make a further statement.”

Chris Patten, the city’s last British governor and now a patron of UK-based group Hong Kong Watch, said the bill was a “flagrant breach” of both the Sino-British Joint Declaration that underpinned the 1997 handover, and the one country, two systems governing principle of the city retaining a high degree of autonomy from mainland China for 50 years.

“It will throttle the city’s rule of law, presenting a major confrontation between what passes for law in China and the common law system in Hong Kong which has allowed the city to function as one of most important financial hubs in Asia,” Patten said.

“The separation of powers is in danger of being shattered and the courts politicised by the provision that the chief executive will herself choose the judges for national security cases.”

Security legislation added to Basic Law: source

The national security law was inserted into Annex III of the Basic Law during an afternoon meeting of the NPCSC, a source familiar with the matter said.

The law would then be enforced in Hong Kong after being gazetted by the local administration.

It was understood, as of late Tuesday afternoon, that Xinhua would soon issue a short statement about the law before releasing the full text of the legislation later that night.

Hong Kong traumatised by violence fanned overseas: Carrie Lam

In her recorded speech to the UN, Lam said Hong Kong had been traumatised by escalating violence fanned by external forces since June last year, referring to the anti-government protests sparked by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.

“Once rated as one of the safest cities in the world, security and stability have become relevant concerns,” she told the international community.

During this period, she said groups advocating “Hong Kong independence” and “self-determination” had incited protesters, very often radicalised young people, to desecrate and burn the national flag, vandalise the national emblem and storm the central government’s office in Hong Kong.

She added that some local politicians proclaimed that they would paralyse the Hong Kong government while others campaigned for foreign governments to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs or even to impose sanctions on the city.

“No central government could turn a blind eye to such threats to sovereignty and national security as well as risks of subversion of state power,” Lam said.

“All in all, these acts have crossed the ‘one country’ red line and called for resolute action.”

We deplore this decision, says EU chief

The European Union is “in the process” of considering follow-up action with lawmakers and international partners to the passage of the national security legislation.

“We deplore this decision,” European Council President Charles Michel told reporters on Tuesday. “This law risks seriously undermining the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong, and having a detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.”

His European Commission counterpart, Ursula von der Leyen, added: “Many across Europe including in the European Parliament have made similar statements, so we remain in touch with our international partners on this matter, and will pay carefully attention on how to respond.”

‘Decision to take questions in city legislature rests with Lam’

Legislative Council president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen welcomed the new law and urged officials to explain it lawmakers.
Speaking at Legco on Tuesday evening, Leung said he had written to the Chief Executive’s Office about the pan-democrats’ demand for her to attend a special question and answer session on the newly passed law.

“But it is the chief executive’s right to decide if she comes to Legco,” Leung said.

Leung also called on the international community to “understand” Beijing’s decision, saying the new law would ensure the city’s stability.

Xi Jinping signs the legislation into law

President Xi Jinping on Tuesday evening signed the national security legislation for Hong Kong into law, state media has reported.

Xinhua confirmed in a statement issued at about 6pm that the law – targeting acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security – was passed earlier by Beijing’s top legislative body.


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