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National security must be viewed from perspective of entire nation

By Paul Yeung | China Daily Asia | Updated: 2020-07-02 09:41
Hong Kong residents celebrate the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland at the Victoria Peak on Wednesday. They wave national flags and flags of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and display a banner expressing their support for the national security law that took effect on Tuesday. China Daily

Debate about the national security legislation for Hong Kong heated up as details of the draft law became known. Now that the law has been passed, some are still arguing against it. Their arguments, whatever they may be, have one thing in common: They are all made from the perspective of Hong Kong without consideration for the nation.

It is not surprising that these detractors, who view the new law solely through this narrow lense, would readily find fault with it, particularly some of its arrangements. But the legislative intent of the law is to safeguard national security, which is essentially a matter of the State. More controversies would arise, and the implementation of the new law could be hindered, if some continue to view the national security issue only from the perspective of Hong Kong. To avoid such an undesirable scenario, we must view it from multiple perspectives, or beyond the context of Hong Kong.

First of all, we must see the “big picture”. It essentially refers to the intricate global political landscape, wherein Hong Kong’s loophole in national security is being exploited by some foreign governments and politicians to contain China’s development. If the city fails to enact a national security law in a timely manner, it will become a “Hong Kong card” that the foreign powers readily use against Beijing. Therefore, specific provisions of the law must be sufficiently strong to deter acts endangering national security and nip separatism in the bud.

To overcome such threats, we must forgo the narrow-minded, Hong Kong-centered perspective and adopt the national perspective. Before Beijing assigns any significant roles to the city, Hong Kong must be well-prepared to resist the infiltrations and interferences of foreign powers.

To ensure a sufficient deterrent effect, in addition to the penalties stipulated in the law, emphasis must be placed on implementation and enforcement, particularly regarding the important role of judges. Accordingly, the chief executive is empowered to designate a group of judges who are qualified to handle cases related to national security. This is crucial to achieving the very purpose of the new national security law.

Apart from seeing the “big picture”, we must view the national security issue from the perspective of the State. Since the law emphasizes the role of the central authorities in safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong SAR, some detractors claim that Beijing is undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy, or compromising “one country, two systems”. Such arguments reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the political framework. The basic principle of this framework is: “One country” precedes “two systems”. On issues of national security, exercising State power is of paramount importance.

Issues relating to national security are not supposed to be handled by local governments. If there is an independence movement emerging in Hong Kong, this for sure cannot be handled by Hong Kong itself. Such practice holds true everywhere.

Take the Catalan independence movement in Spain as an example. It was the central government of Spain that took it upon itself to tackle this national crisis. The Senate in Madrid endorsed Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s proposal to remove Catalonia’s autonomy by invoking Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution. The crisis was ultimately resolved after the Catalan government was dissolved and the central government took over the governance of Catalonia. Political leaders involved in the Catalan independence movement were tried by the Supreme Court of Spain in Madrid, the country’s capital.

Judging from the Catalan case and other similar international events, we know that the central government representing the “state” plays an essential role in handling national security issues in localities, including partially autonomous regions. If we view national security issues from this perspective, it is easy to understand why the central government will set up a national security agency in Hong Kong, which is tasked with supervising, guiding, facilitating and supporting the HKSAR government to fulfill its responsibility of safeguarding national security. The agency, together with other relevant State organs, will also exercise jurisdiction on a small number of criminal cases involving acts that threaten national security.

To help us to have an appropriate view on the national security law, we must also have a vision of the long-term effect of the law. Some concerns held that the promulgation of the national security law would worsen the environment for business and investment activities, and even for residents’ lives. Such concerns are understandable since the law is a new thing for Hong Kong people, most of whom still do not have sufficient knowledge of it. However, it can be expected that people will feel reassured when they have a thorough understanding of the law’s jurisdiction, scope of application and legal procedures.

The practice in Singapore provides Hong Kong with a glimpse into the future. The country’s strong security law has not dragged down its economy or hindered social development in the long run because both Singaporeans and the international community, who have a sufficient knowledge of the law’s provisions, have already embraced the law without any difficulty.

Hong Kong today can be best depicted in the words of Zengzi, the student of Confucius: “A wise man, shouldering the heavy burden of duty, must show resilience and resolution during the long journey of fulfilling it.”

Vice-Premier Liu He’s recent remarks at Lujiazui Forum 2020 in Shanghai envisioned Hong Kong’s future. Liu said that Beijing was expecting Hong Kong to demonstrate its strengths as an international financial center, and that concrete actions will be taken to protect the rights and interests of all investors for the sustainable prosperity of the city. The speech indicates that Hong Kong will remain a vital place in the landscape of the Chinese economy.

For now, Hong Kong is facing sanctions by US-led Western countries. To overcome such threats, we must forgo the narrow-minded, Hong Kong-centered perspective and adopt the national perspective. Before Beijing assigns any significant roles to the city, Hong Kong must be well-prepared to resist the infiltrations and interferences of foreign powers.

The author is senior research officer of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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