Setting up a national security commission would allow Hong Kong’s leader to remain informed about new developments, fulfilling his or her responsibility to safeguard China’s sovereignty in the city, a senior minister said on Sunday.
Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu also sought to allay the public’s worries about Beijing’s plan to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, saying common law principles, such the presumption of innocence, would still be practised under the new legislation.
But writing on her official blog on Sunday, Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng Yeuk-wah said it would be “impracticable and unreasonable to expect that everything” in the national security law would be exactly as what a statute in Hong Kong, a common law jurisdiction, would be like.
“Yet, of course, the legislation should be clear and understood in [Hong Kong],” she wrote.
Critics had suggested inserting a sunset clause so the impending legislation would be abolished once Hong Kong enacted its own national security law as required under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
But Cheng said there was no need for such a clause, as local legislation could not replace Beijing’s.
“Such legislation to be passed in [the city] … may well not be the complete ambit of national security that affects 1.4 billion people,” she argued.
Earlier on Sunday, liberal legal scholar Johannes Chan Man-mun, former law dean at the University of Hong Kong, urged the government to reveal more details of the national security law.
Chan said he was worried that “the devil could be in the details”, and Hong Kong people’s rights and freedoms could be curtailed under the legislation.
Last month, China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, endorsed a resolution authorising its Standing Committee (NPCSC) to tailor-make a national security law for Hong Kong.
The committee is expected to meet again from Thursday to Saturday, and analysts believe that the new law could be approved at the end of the meeting at the earliest.
Under the proposal, the Hong Kong government must create an enforcement mechanism to protect national security. It must also strengthen law enforcement, while mainland agencies will also be set up in Hong Kong to protect national security when needed.
In an interview with the Post on Tuesday, Lee said Hong Kong police were setting up a dedicated unit to enforce the coming legislation. He also said Macau’s national security commission, set up in 2018, would be a “good reference” for implementing the law in Hong Kong.
Chaired by the city’s chief executive, the Macau commission, whose members include the city’s security, police and justice chiefs, helps the government coordinate its work to uphold sovereignty.
Lee on Sunday said Hong Kong could need to establish a similar commission that involved the city’s leader as well.
“The commission is a good idea. National security issues must be reported to the chief executive, because this concerns the nation, and the chief executive is the city’s top representative to be accountable to the nation,” he told a television programme.
Lee added that the Hong Kong government would not be copying the Macau model completely.
“We will set up this enforcement mechanism according to Hong Kong’s actual situation, as the nature and complexity of the problems that we handle are very different from those in Macau,” he said.
On the dedicated police unit, Lee said anyone joining it must undergo integrity checks and be dedicated to the city.
Asked if those joining the new unit must be Chinese nationals, he said: “We require them to be loyal to Hong Kong and understand their responsibilities. I won’t rule out any responsibilities.”
Speaking on a radio programme on Sunday, Johannes Chan said authorities must reveal more details of the law to set Hong Kong people’s minds at ease.
The legal scholar said he has never heard of any country enacting a national security law without allowing its citizens to preview the draft.
“The devil could be in the details, but when we can’t see the provisions yet we can only comment in terms of principles,” he said.
Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate to the NPCSC, has previously said people could express their opinions about the law on the website of China’s legislature. He later clarified that they could only do so after Beijing revealed the draft legislation.
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