China Officials Detail Plans to Bolster Hong Kong Security Laws
(Bloomberg) -- Senior Chinese officials laid out plans to expand Hong Kong’s security powers, despite international criticism of the reach of measures already taken to curb dissent in the Asian financial center.
At a forum Monday to mark the first anniversary of the security law China imposed, officials signaled further efforts to strengthen Hong Kong’s laws. One top Chinese legislative official pointed out that China still had several types of security offenses not covered by the Hong Kong measure banning secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Zhang Yong, deputy head of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the National People’s Congress, said that the May 2020 resolution authorizing the security law supported further action. The NPC empowered its Standing Committee to draft more legislation as needed and specifically directed Hong Kong to fulfill its obligation to pass local security laws, Zhang said.
“The scope of the legislation is to prevent, stop and punish any behaviors that endanger national security, including, but not limited to, the four types of crimes listed in the Hong Kong national security law,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”
China’s own security law covered 11 types of crimes, Zhang said, referring to legislation that also covers spying, treason, defection and leaking state secrets.
The forum was the latest sign that Chinese President Xi Jinping is far from finished overhauling policies in Hong Kong, one year after handing down a security law that has remade politics and the courts in the former British colony. The legislation, which carries sentences as long as life in prison, has led to the closure of Hong Kong’s biggest pro-democracy newspaper and the arrest of at least 117 activists, journalists and former lawmakers.
The campaign has drawn criticism from activists, journalists, business associations and foreign governments, with a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers urging President Joe Biden to take action to address China’s “ceaseless assault” on Hong Kong’s democracy. Xi has been undeterred, vowing at a speech before thousands of party faithful in Tiananmen Square last week to exercise “overall jurisdiction” to protect national security in the city.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told the forum that her government would “continue to strengthen and deepen the work on safeguarding national security” in the future. Lam pledged to make sure Beijing’s policies were “fully understood and implemented at full steam and in a holistic manner, covering the areas including politics, society, economy, culture, technology, the internet, finance and public health.”
Lam credited the security with helping transition Hong Kong “from chaos to order,” arguing that the city’s rule of law was “as robust as ever.”
Chinese officials have embraced a broad interpretation of the existing security legislation. The government is prosecuting dozens of Hong Kong’s most prominent democracy activists for “conspiracy to commit subversion” over their roles in a primary election last year that authorities described as a plot to paralyze the government.
Hong Kong police similarly warned Sunday that advocating efforts to memorialize a man who killed himself last week after stabbing a police officer was “no different from” supporting terrorism. “It will incite further hatred, divide the society and eventually breach social order and endanger public safety, threatening everyone in Hong Kong,” police said.
Zheng Yanxiong, the head of the security office established by the security law, told the forum Monday that those viewed as threatening the nation would be pursued to the fullest extent of the law. There is “no room for forgiveness,” Zheng said.
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