China's National Security Legislation will safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term stability and prosperity
Recently, the South African media has been following closely the important agenda of China’s annual two sessions, namely the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), especially the NPC’s adoption of the decision on national security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
It speaks volumes about the importance of Hong Kong’s status as a global economic and financial center and a regional transportation hub.
The national security legislation for Hong Kong is internal affairs falling under China’s sovereignty. However, in view of the fact that many South Africans live, work or do business in Hong Kong, hereby we would like to elaborate on some issues in which they are most interested.
First, will the national security legislation for Hong Kong shake the foundation of “One Country, Two Systems”?
Our answer is definitely NO. Since the return of Hong Kong, the policies of “One Country, Two Systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy have been faithfully implemented. The Hong Kong residents enjoy far greater freedom and rights than during the colonial period. Practice has proved that the “One Country, Two Systems” is the best system for maintaining the long-term stability and prosperity in Hong Kong since its return to the motherland, as well as a long-term basic state policy to which the Chinese government is committed.
Safeguarding national security is safeguarding “One Country, Two Systems”
During the past 23 years since the return of Hong Kong, the anti-China rioters in Hong Kong have been colluding with external forces to engage in secessionist, subversive, infiltration and terrorist activities. In particular, since the turbulence over proposed amendments to the extradition bill last June, Hong Kong has been experiencing political and social turmoil and escalating street violence.
The pro-independence elements and radical rioters have run rampant, and some external forces have flagrantly got their hands deeper in Hong Kong affairs, which has seriously challenged the red line of “One Country, Two Systems”, and plunged Hong Kong into the most severe situation since its return. Hong Kong has lost its status as the world’s freest economy which it has enjoyed for 25 years in a row after international rating agencies repeatedly downgraded its credit rating because of the riots. The decision made by the NPC aims to close the loopholes in Hong Kong’s national security, ensure the sustained and smooth implementation of “One Country, Two Systems”, and better safeguard Hong Kong’s long-term peace, stability and prosperity.
Second, will the national security legislation change the fundamentals of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy?
The answer is also NO. The NPC’s authorization of its standing committee to start the relevant legislative work is targeted at a narrow category of acts, such as splitting China, subverting China’s state power, masterminding and launching terrorist activities, and meddling in the Hong Kong SAR affairs on the part of external forces. It aims to punish a very small handful of criminals suspected of jeopardizing national security, ensure the freedom and legal rights and interests of the vast majority of law-abiding Hong Kong residents to the greatest extent, and create a favorable internal and external environment for practicing “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy.
The relevant legislation will not change Hong Kong’s capitalist system, legal system and judicial independence, high degree of autonomy, or Hong Kong residents’ freedom and legitimate rights and interests. On the contrary, with the blessing of the legislation on national security, Hong Kong will become a safer, better and more prosperous place. The legitimate rights and interests of the institutions and nationals of various countries in Hong Kong will be better protected, and the foreign investors including those from South Africa will enjoy a more stable and favorable business environment.
Third, is the national security legislation for Hong Kong legal and legitimate?
The answer is definitely YES. National security is the prerequisite and foundation of one country’s survival and development. No country, be it China or South Africa, will sit by and do nothing in the face of attempts to jeopardize its national security. At a time when national security in Hong Kong SAR faces a real threat and gets seriously undermined, and when it becomes clear that the SAR government can hardly complete the required legislation by itself, the NPC, China’s highest legislative body, has the full authority, responsibilities and obligations to act decisively at the state level to safeguard national security in Hong Kong through legislation according to the Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong. It has to be done and must be done quickly.
National security legislation falls within the legislative power which belongs to the Central Government. The Central Government assumes the primary and ultimate responsibility for national security in all its administrative regions. This is the basic theory and principle underpinning national sovereignty, and the common practice in countries in the world. Through Article 23 of the Basic Law, the Central Government authorizes the Hong Kong SAR government to enact laws on safeguarding national security. But it does not mean only the Hong Kong SAR government could make national security laws applicable to Hong Kong. Nor does it deprive the Central Government of its power and responsibility for making and enforcing national security laws in Hong Kong in light of actual situation and needs. Therefore, the NPC’s decision is completely reasonable, legitimate and legal. It is not contradictory but complementary to Article 23 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong SAR.
Fourth, does the national security legislation for Hong Kong violate the commitments China has made in bilateral and multilateral agreements such as the Sino-British Joint Declaration?
The answer is clearly NO. Hong Kong is an inalienable part of Chinese territory. Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and brook no external interference. The rights and obligations of the UK laid out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration were all fulfilled at the time of the handover on 1 July 1997. The British side has no sovereignty, no jurisdiction and no right of supervision over Hong Kong after its handover. The Joint Declaration has accomplished its mission and is now history. China will never tolerate any external force to use it as an excuse to interfere in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.
In fact, Hong Kong’s unique status as an international financial hub is not given unilaterally by any foreign country. Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability have been achieved through the hard work of Hong Kong compatriots supported by the Motherland and riding on China’ fast economic development, rather than bestowed by any other country. Since the return to the motherland, Hong Kong has established mutually beneficial cooperation with trade partners in the world, including South Africa. In 2019, the bilateral trade volume between South Africa and Hong Kong reached R 23 billion.
However, some country blatantly demonizes and stigmatizes China’s legislation measures, while making numerous national security laws at home under the pretext of safeguarding national security. Instead of focusing on addressing the major public health and humanitarian crisis, or serious human rights violations at home, they are making hypocritical claims in the name of caring about freedom and human rights of Hong Kong people, finger-pointing the issue of Hong Kong’s national security legislation, and even threatening with so-called “sanctions”.
This is nothing but pure double standard.
A prosperous and stable Hong Kong serves the common interest of all countries in the world, including China and South Africa. It is our sincere hope that friends from all sectors of South Africa could put “One Country, Two Systems” in perspective, respect, understand and support China’s efforts to safeguard national security in Hong Kong in accordance with the law, and take real action to safeguard the principle of international law and relations such as non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.