HK national security law: new head of Beijing security office in city pledges agents will not trample on people’s rights

09-Jul-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The head of Beijing’s new national security office in Hong Kong has pledged his agents will not infringe on residents’ rights.

Speaking on Wednesday morning at the official opening of the new Office for Safeguarding National Security, Zheng Yanxiong also said the law had been enacted “for the well-being of the people”.

“We will fulfil our responsibilities and exercise our power to defend national security firmly in accordance with the law,” he said.

The national flag flies outside the Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay, where the new Office for Safeguarding National Security has been temporarily located. Photo: Winson Wong

The national flag flies outside the Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay, where the new Office for Safeguarding National Security has been temporarily located. Photo: Winson Wong

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His remarks echoed those of Luo Huining, director of the central government’s liaison office in Hong Kong, who called the new office “the gatekeeper of national security”, saying it would abide by local laws and would not infringe on the legal rights of anyone or any organisation.

The director also said those who questioned the judicial system and rule of law in mainland China were deliberately trying to cause “unnecessary panic and fear”, adding that the legal system across the border was a sound one.

“Many foreigners in China think that China gives them the biggest sense of safety,” Luo said.

The law’s opponents have said the sweeping powers granted to the new agency deal a serious blow to Hong Kong’s freedoms. For example, the officers and vehicles used while carrying out their duties are not subject to checks or scrutiny of Hong Kong’s law enforcement agencies.

Luo and Zheng both spoke at a flag-raising ceremony outside the office’s new temporary base at the Metropark Hotel Causeway Bay, which they attended alongside a host of other dignitaries including Zheng’s deputies, Li Jiangzhou and Sun Qingye, as well as Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Lam said the city would need to learn how the law worked, and there would be challenges ahead, which was why Luo had been appointed the national security adviser to the city’s Committee for Safeguarding National Security.

“The Office for Safeguarding National Security will analyse, study and come to a conclusion about the national security situation in Hong Kong,” she said. “It will provide advice and suggestions on major strategies and policies concerning the defence of national security.”

It would also supervise, guide, coordinate and support Hong Kong in fulfilling its responsibility to defend national security, Lam added.

The chief executive said the office would also collect and analyse national security intelligence, and the committee would quickly establish a mechanism with the new agency to strengthen information

sharing and operation coordination.

Other guests at the event included former chief executives Tung Chee-hwa and Leung Chun-ying; Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate on the National People’s Congress Standing Committee; former justice secretary Elsie Leung Oi-sie; Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po; and Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu.

A number of uniformed police stood guard outside the building and the surrounding area in Causeway Bay. A bomb disposal vehicle was also at the scene.

The new office, created under Beijing’s recently enacted national security law for the city, is responsible for supervising and guiding the local government’s enforcement of the legislation.

It is situated opposite Victoria Park, a protest hotspot, and near the predominantly middle-class residential neighbourhoods of Tin Hau and Tai Hang. The latter is known for its traditional Fire Dragon dance, and has been revamped as a trendy spot popular among expats and young people. An official source said the choice of location showed the office was presenting itself as “open and aboveboard” to Hong Kong people.

“It is very important that the office can be seen by Hong Kong people,” the source said. “It is carrying out official duties on China’s land according to the law, there is no need to hide.”

The source also said one key consideration was the fact the hotel was run by state-own HK CTS Hotels Co., making it much easier to arrange the handover, given the tight schedule.

“Overall, this is the optimal choice, balancing various considerations including public image, safety, security, accessibility, quick turnaround time and housing needs of the new officers coming from the mainland,” the source said.

Another source said the headcount at the office was “around 200 to 300″, but not all employees were coming from the mainland fresh.

“Some who are already in Hong Kong will report to the office from now on,” they said.

There are 266 rooms in the hotel, and while many have been turned into offices some remain as dormitories for new officials.

The source said the office would continue to look for a more permanent location in the future.

Zheng began working in the building on Tuesday, the Post reported earlier. The 56-year-old, formerly secretary general of the Communist Party’s Guangdong branch, is a hardliner best known for his crackdown on protests that erupted in the village of Wukan in 2011.



Category: Hong Kong

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