Two Sessions 2020: Beijing sets sights on HK legal system as part of national security move

23-May-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday that Beijing would establish a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in Hong Kong.

But Li made no reference to the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, in his work report, the first time he has not done so since he took office in 2013.

Last year, Li made clear that Beijing would “act in strict compliance with China’s constitution and the Basic Laws of the Hong Kong and Macau special administrative regions”. That phrase was omitted this time around.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers his work report during the opening session of the National People's Congress, at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing. Photo: AFP

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang delivers his work report during the opening session of the National People’s Congress, at the Great Hall of the People, in Beijing. Photo: AFP

The premier was speaking at the opening of the annual session of the National People’s Congress, the country’s legislature, during which the central government submitted a resolution to enable its top legislative body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, to craft and pass a new national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong.

Beijing’s move also comes against the backdrop of rapidly escalating tensions between the United States and China. The US has until the end of this month to decide whether to certify Hong Kong’s autonomy under the Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019.

As a convention, the premier would dedicate a paragraph, in his concluding remarks, to Hong Kong and Macau China’s two special administrative regions (SARs) that were established after they were returned from British and Portuguese rule in 1997 and 1999 respectively.

This year, Li said: “We will comprehensively and accurately carry out ‘one country, two systems’, under which the people of Hong Kong govern Hong Kong, and the people of Macau govern Macau, with a high degree of autonomy.

“We will establish sound legal systems and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security in the two SARs, and see that the governments of the two regions fulfil their constitutional responsibilities.”

Li also said the central government would continue to support the two cities in developing their economies, improving people’s livelihoods, integrate into national development plans, and to maintain the two cities’ long-term prosperity and stability.

In March last year, Li said in his work report that Hong Kong and Macau would develop and progress together with mainland China as they seized opportunities under the nation’s trade and integration plans.

Under the Human Rights and Democracy Act, the US government will make an assessment on whether Hong Kong remains suitably autonomous from China, a prerequisite for extending the city’s preferential US trading and investment privileges.

Warning earlier that it would be a tough report, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday launched a verbal salvo against China and expressed Washington’s concerns on Hong Kong.

Pompeo, a former CIA director, called out the recent arrests of leading Hong Kong activists such as Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, and entrepreneur and media owner Jimmy Lai, describing how they had been “hauled into court”.

On Thursday, the state department accused China of turning its back on commitments to keep Hong Kong semi-autonomous, after Beijing announced it was proposing national security legislation that would effectively limit opposition activity there.

“We urge Beijing to honour its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” said State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus in a statement, referring to the bilateral treaty signed in 1984 that guarantees a “high degree of autonomy” for Hong Kong until at least 2047.



Category: China

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