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Monday, Jul 26, 2021

If national security is about silencing dissent, why not make it clear?

If national security is about silencing dissent, why not make it clear?

The security laws would seem to be mainly about silencing opposition to the Communist Party. If this is so, wouldn’t explaining why this is necessary and how Hong Kong would benefit be a good way of easing concerns?
Beijing and its Hong Kong government proxies have given all manner of reasons for the national security law. The provisions covering secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign powers implemented a year ago are not enough, we are now being told, and enacting Article 23 of the Basic Law, long-delayed local legislation protecting Beijing from subversive, treacherous acts, is now firmly on the agenda.

There would seem to be a lot of overlap in existing domestic laws, including those recently introduced, and the ones that are planned. Hongkongers have been told it is all in the name of protecting sovereignty and putting in place stability and a system of representation that ensures the city runs smoothly and prosperously.

These are noble aims and no one could have qualms about wanting Hong Kong to return to its peaceful and thriving old ways. The city was not so long ago a vibrant financial magnet, a draw for mainland Chinese and foreign companies, investors and talented workers. The biggest names in luxury and fashion had regional bases, the airport was among the world’s busiest with visitors flocking to shop, sight-see, do business, and participate in trade shows and conventions.

Then came the protests, the violent clashes with police, the vandalism and Covid-19, casting a shadow that makes the glory days seem far away and unattainable.

Hong Kong authorities were unwilling to step in with a political solution. If they had done so in a timely manner, circumstances may have been markedly different.

Government inaction gave Beijing the green light to intervene and it has done so with force and determination, using police to enforce the strategy. Peace has been restored, but to some people, it has been accompanied by intimidation, fear, tensions and an even greater polarisation of society.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu, along with top mainland officials, constantly preach the need for enforcement of the national security law. They contend the legislation is aimed only at criminals and that there has been no change to freedoms of the press, speech and expression, and that the rule of law remains solid.

But the arrests of leading opposition figures, the refusal to allow protests, closure of media organisations, pressure on non-governmental groups, concerns of academics and journalists about freedoms, anxiety of internet giants such as Facebook, Google and Twitter about their content, the worries of some foreign companies and their staff, and the outflow of thousands of residents, many with children, for new lives in the West, say something else.

From my perspective, I can put it in a nutshell: the security laws would seem to be mainly about silencing opposition to China’s ruling Communist Party. If my assumption is in any way correct, wouldn’t explaining why this is necessary and how Hong Kong would benefit be a good way of easing concerns?

But the lack of a reason for leaving little – if any room – to criticise can only lead to speculation about motives, none of which are permitted to be written about in a public forum as they are likely to violate national security.

The Communist Party made clear at its 100th birthday celebrations on July 1 that Chinese have gained much from its rule. Vast poverty has been alleviated
and replaced by a markedly higher standard of living, it contended. China’s well-educated people have helped propel the nation back to greatness and it is now among the global leaders in science and technology. It has grown in military strength and become a power to be reckoned with.

Hong Kong obviously has much to learn and gain from greater integration. Hongkongers should be given every opportunity to participate and benefit, and made to feel a part of the development. Embracing some citizens while barring, frightening and scaring off others with a hard-fisted approach is counterproductive.
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