Councils of eight universities in HK back new security law

03-Jun-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The heads of the governing council of Hong Kong’s eight publicly funded universities have jointly backed Beijing’s plan to impose a national security law on the city, as a pro-Beijing group claimed it had gathered more than 2.9 million signatures supporting the controversial legislation.

The support came as both the central government’s liaison office and Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office (HKMAO) issued separate statements condemning the Trump administration’s threat of sanctions, saying such intimidation would not shake Beijing’s determination to safeguard national security.

China was always ready to retaliate against any acts that affected the city’s prosperity, the HKMAO said.

In offering their support, the council chairmen said the law could “better ensure universities continue to create knowledge through research and learning” when operating under the principle of “one country, two systems”.

“As residents of Hong Kong, we enjoy the protection provided by the state, and in turn have a reciprocal obligation to protect the state by supporting the introduction of legislation which prohibits criminal acts that threaten the existence of the state,” the statement read.

Hours earlier, the presidents of five universities a issued a joint statement that expressed understanding of the need for a national security law.

“We fully support one country, two systems, understand the need for national security legislation and value the freedom of speech, of the press, of publication, of assembly and other rights the Basic Law confers upon the people of Hong Kong,” the statement said.

Several university campuses were occupied by students at the height of anti-government protests last year over a now-withdrawn extradition bill. Some members of the movement have called for Hong Kong’s independence, along with five key demands such as universal suffrage.

The universities would continue to uphold academic freedom and institutional autonomy, said the statement, which was released by HKU and Chinese University, as well as Polytechnic, Lingnan and Education universities.

City University, meanwhile, told the Post it advocated the separation of education and politics while supporting the one country, two systems principle.

Baptist University said it hoped the government would engage the public at large and ensure the legislation suited the local situation, while meeting the hopes of Hongkongers.

Residents have been divided as to whether Beijing’s plan to enact the law will help or hinder the city’s prospects.

While thousands took to the streets last month to oppose the plan, a group formed by pro-Beijing politicians on Monday said they had collected 2.93 million signatures in support of the legislation.

About 1.1 million were submitted through a website and the rest collected at 5,400 street booths between May 24 and 31, according to the Hong Kong United Front for Supporting National Security Legislation.

The group said its website required both a name and the first four digits of the corresponding Hong Kong ID number. It handed over more than 30 boxes containing the signatures to Luo Huining, director of the central government’s liaison office.

The proposed legislation, which will be promulgated directly by Beijing, is aimed at prohibiting acts of subversion, succession, terrorism and involvement with foreign interference.

Luo refuted “sensational rumours” that residents would lose their freedom of speech, press and assembly, saying they were aimed at sowing fears while the American threat of sanctions only demonstrated how Washington used the city as a pawn to contain China’s development.

US President Donald Trump on Friday said his government would begin stripping back the policy exemptions granted to Hong Kong after finding the city was “no longer autonomous” from mainland China.

Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po on Monday again dismissed suggestions the sanctions might cripple the city’s economy, saying there was no sign of large capital outflows, while the government was confident the currency peg to the US dollar would be unaffected.

The uncertainty comes as the city prepares to observe a candlelight vigil to mark the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown, although in what form remains to be seen. Police have banned the gathering, citing social-distancing measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The vigil has in the past attracted as many as 180,000 people, according to organisers, and some attendees have chanted calls for an end to “one-party dictatorship”. Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Maria Tam Wai-chu on Monday told a local radio show she would advise Hongkongers to leave if they heard such slogans.

“You have to make a decision. If that is not your goal, you should walk away,” she said.


Category: Hong Kong

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