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HK to enact new national security ordinance on Saturday

By Wu Kunling and William Xu in Hong Kong | | Updated: 2024-03-19 23:29
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Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu arrives at the Legislative Council chamber after the passage on third reading of the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance on March 19, 2024. [ANDY CHONG/CHINA DAILY]

HK: Ordinance hailed as milestone for city's stability

Hong Kong is set to enact the long-awaited Safeguarding National Security Ordinance on Saturday after its legislature passed the law on Tuesday — a historic achievement that Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said was overdue by 26 years.

The ordinance, legislated under Article 23 of the Basic Law, was introduced to prevent and punish five types of acts endangering national security in Hong Kong, including treason, theft of State secrets, and espionage.

Lee said he will sign the bill soon and publish it on Saturday, the final steps to turn it into law. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government will also report it to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, according to Article 17 of the Basic Law.

In a brief speech after the Legislative Council's voting, Lee called the bill's passage a historic moment for the city that was overdue by 26 years, eight months and nine days.

It was also a glorious mission jointly accomplished by the SAR's government, the Legislative Council and many patriotic forces in the city, Lee said, adding that these efforts drew a satisfactory conclusion to an issue that had long plagued the city.

Lee also stressed that the ordinance will ensure a safe and stable social environment in Hong Kong, which makes the city more attractive to businesses and investment.

Central government officials said on Tuesday that Hong Kong's soon-to-be-enacted national security legislation builds a new "firewall" for the city's long-term stability and prosperity and the sustained implementation of "one country, two systems".

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said that the passage of the ordinance symbolizes the implementation of the constitutional responsibility of the Hong Kong SAR to safeguard national security, which fulfills the long-awaited aspiration of the whole country, including Hong Kong compatriots.

Also in separate statements, the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR and the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region called it a milestone since the city's return to the motherland, as it will help to protect the city's long-term stability and prosperity.

A groundswell of support also poured in from the city's disciplined services — which include police, fire and correctional services, customs and immigration departments, and business chambers, enterprises and social groups — who said it will not only safeguard national security, but also provide confidence to investors.

The legislature resumed the second-reading debate on the bill on Tuesday morning. The ordinance was approved in the third reading following a review of the bill and its 91 government-proposed amendments.

The ordinance makes broad references to national security laws in other jurisdictions. The government had also considered suggestions from the community during its monthlong public consultation from Jan 30 through Feb 28, and from lawmakers during the nearly 50 hours of scrutiny in a bills committee.

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