Hong Kong government officials rally behind Beijing’s plans to introduce national security laws after thousands took to the streets to protest, while the secretary for security said the law is needed as there is “growing terrorism” in the city-state.
“Terrorism is growing in the city and activities which harm national security, such as ‘Hong Kong independence’, become more rampant,” Secretary for Security John Lee said in a statement.
“In just a few months, Hong Kong has changed from one of the safest cities in the world to a city shrouded in the shadow of violence,” he said, adding national security laws were needed to safeguard the city’s prosperity and stability.
After months of quiet, this weekend saw a fresh surge of protest after the government in Beijing proposed a security law that would radically change Hong Kong’s unique status.
On Sunday, thousands of people defied government warnings and marched through the city centre to protest against the bill.
Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at demonstrators, who were wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus. There were at least 180 arrests.
In a statement on Monday, Mr. Lee said that in the past year, “the violence in Hong Kong has been escalating, with many cases involving explosives and genuine firearms”.
He said the clashes on Sunday showed “the need and urgency of the decision to be deliberated by the NPC” and that the law would ensure Hong Kong’s “long-term prosperity and stability”.
Commissioner of Police Chris Tang also welcomed the bill, saying weapons and explosives seized from protesters showed Hong Kong was “at the risk point of national security and there is a need to take effective measures to prevent the situation from deteriorating”.
The bill was put forward on Thursday as China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), met for its delayed annual gathering.
China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, said the legislation – which would ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” – should be brought in “without the slightest delay”.
Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law – the mini constitution in place since it went back under Chinese rule in 1997 – it largely has responsibility for its own internal affairs and security.
But the “draft decision” – as it is known before approval by the NPC – includes an article that says Hong Kong “must improve” national security.
It adds: “When needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People’s Government will set up agencies in Hong Kong to fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law.”
That means China could potentially have its own law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong, alongside the city’s own.
A group of 200 senior politicians from around the world have issued a joint statement criticising China’s plan.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also condemned the plans, describing them as a “death knell” for the city’s freedoms. The UK, Australia and Canada have also expressed their “deep concern”. (Source: BBC)