National Security Law the guardian of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity
By Tu Haiming
In his address at the ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, President Xi Jinping asserted that putting the special administrative region’s governing power in the right hands is to safeguard the city’s prosperity and stability, as well as the interests of more than 7 million people in the region.
That the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has fulfilled the responsibility of safeguarding national security is a concrete manifestation of the HKSAR’s governing power being kept in the right hands. Speaking at a symposium last Friday on ensuring the accurate implementation of the National Security Law (NSL) in the HKSAR, Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, stressed that the implementation of the NSL has effectively safeguarded national security in the HKSAR, lifting the city out of the quagmire of political disputes and restoring social order. This highlights the fact that the legislative intent of the NSL is to serve the well-being of Hong Kong and its residents, Xia noted.
There are two sets of data that corroborate Xia’s assertion. First, since the NSL came into effect, only about 230 people have been arrested on suspicion of endangering national security, approximately 30 of whom have been tried and found guilty. Evidently, the NSL targets only a very small number of subversives while protecting the interests of the vast majority of Hong Kong residents.
Second, the amount of funds raised by initial public offerings on the Hong Kong stock market rose sharply in the 12 months following the promulgation of the NSL in June 2020, and the average daily turnover of the stock market exceeded HK$150 billion ($19.2 billion) in the same period, which was nearly 60 percent higher than the previous 12-month figure. In 2021, moreover, a total of 9,049 international and mainland enterprises had their business presence in Hong Kong, a record high. The NSL, therefore, has not only ensured stability but also boosted investor confidence and brought in new businesses and funds.
Indeed, the NSL is like the guardian of Hong Kong, safeguarding national security, ensuring the city’s social stability, harmony and prosperity.
The promulgation of the NSL is a vivid demonstration of how the central government’s overall jurisdiction and the SAR’s high degree of autonomy are organically combined
At the 25th anniversary celebration, President Xi also pointed out that the top priority of “one country, two systems” is to safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests.
The NSL is intended to serve this purpose and protect the fundamental interests of Hong Kong residents. Xia noted a unique feature of the NSL — its “dual-track implementation mechanism”, which is threefold in terms of the responsibility of safeguarding national security. First, the central government has the ultimate responsibility for handling national security affairs in the HKSAR, and has comprehensive legislative, administrative and judicial powers. Second, the HKSAR bears the primary responsibility for safeguarding national security in the region as mandated by the central government. Third, the central government will act as a safety valve to handle problems that are beyond the capability of the HKSAR.
In terms of implementation, the dual-track mechanism features the Office for Safeguarding National Security (OSNS) of the Central People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China in the HKSAR and the Committee for Safeguarding National Security (CSNS) in the HKSAR. The former supervises, advises, coordinates, and supports the HKSAR’s national security efforts on behalf of the central government, and can exercise jurisdiction over national security cases under certain situations according to Article 55 of the NSL; whereas the CSNS and other HKSAR agencies are tasked to handle specific issues in relation to safeguarding national security in the region.
The dual-track mechanism can be summarized in two aspects: The central authorities take the lead whereas the HKSAR assumes the primary responsibility for safeguarding national security in the region; the HKSAR handles the day-to-day issues related to national security whereas the central authorities act as the safety valve. Such a mechanism reflects not only the prerogative of the central government in administering national security affairs but also its trust in and respect for the HKSAR. This attests to the notion that the central government handles Hong Kong affairs in strict accordance with the “one country, two systems” principle, and that upholding “one country” does not hinder the functioning of “two systems”.
The dual-track mechanism also indicates that the HKSAR has both the power and constitutional obligation to safeguard national security.
At the HKSAR’s 25th anniversary celebration, President Xi also noted that the central government’s overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong and the latter’s high degree of autonomy are an integral whole, which is essential to the HKSAR achieving good governance.
The promulgation of the NSL is a vivid demonstration of how the central government’s overall jurisdiction and the SAR’s high degree of autonomy are organically combined.
Xia said five relationships must be handled properly in order to accurately implement the NSL.
First is the relationship between the central government and the HKSAR. The central authority plays the role of supervising, advising, coordinating and supporting the HKSAR’s national security efforts and serves as a safety valve, whereas the HKSAR bears the primary responsibility for handling specific national security issues.
Second is the relationship between the common law and civil law systems. The NSL has the characteristics of continental law whereas Hong Kong’s local laws are of common law. The NSL shall prevail where provisions of the local laws are in conflict with it. The HKSAR shall take the initiative to amend local laws to make them compatible with the NSL.
Third is the relationship between the CSNS and the administrative organs. The CSNS takes the lead in deliberating issues, decision making, and coordinating activities; the administrative organs shall cooperate with the CSNS, respect and execute the decisions made by the CSNS.
Fourth is the relationship between civil participation and the functions of specialized agencies. Every stakeholder in Hong Kong is responsible for safeguarding national security while specialized agencies perform their statutory duties.
Fifth is the relationship between security and development. Hong Kong will have the confidence in and objective conditions for opening up to the world only when a sturdy national security firewall is in place. And only by furthering its development can Hong Kong society maintain prosperity in the long run.
The author is a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank. The views do not necessarily reflect those of Bauhinia Magazine.