Update: New central govt commissioner's office to supervise HK to carry out natl security duties

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/20 18:39:08

Hong Kong File Photo: VCG

China's top legislature has reviewed the draft law on national security for Hong Kong at the three-day meeting of the 19th session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee which concluded on Saturday, paving the way for the next stage of the legislative process of the draft law. 

Based on the detailed provisions released Saturday, it showed the central government has entrusted the Hong Kong regional government at the maximum level, and the draft law has conveyed the core values of the "one country, two systems," observers said. 

The central government would establish a commissioner's office for national security affairs in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) in order to safeguard national security.

The office is tasked to assess national security situations in the city and make recommendations on key strategies and major policies in maintaining national security. It will also oversee, guide, coordinate and support the HKSAR to fulfill its duty to protect national security. The office will also collect intelligence and handle national security cases according to the law, the draft showed. 

Members of the Airport Security Unit of the Hong Kong Police Force patrol the airport, May 14, 2020, Hong Kong, south China.Photo:Xinhua

In order to ensure the implementation of the national security law for Hong Kong, the HKSAR would carry out constitutional responsibilities of safeguarding national security. 

Under the draft law, the HKSAR government will set up a special commission chaired by the chief executive to protect national security. The HKSAR exercises the jurisdictions over criminal cases related to national security specified in the draft law, unless under special circumstances. 

The portion of draft released on Saturday does not elaborate on what constitutes special circumstances. But analysts believe that it includes situations where the HKSAR government cannot effectively carry out its duty, foreign forces are involved or there are social unrests like those triggered by the anti-extradition movement last year.

Li Xiaobing, a Hong Kong affairs expert at Nankai University, told the Global Times on Saturday that "this is rebuilding constitutional order in the HKSAR."

It seems like the central government very much trusts the HKSAR government to safeguard national security in the city since the central government will not directly involve itself in cases in most normal circumstances, but will only get involved when the HKSAR government cannot handle them, he said, adding that this is a great respect for the jurisdictional autonomy of Hong Kong.

The draft also stipulates that both the Hong Kong Police Force and Department of Justice would set up special units in handling national security cases, toward which the chief executive would appoint designated judges, the draft showed. 

The draft law showed that central authorities have made utmost efforts in striking a balance between Hong Kong's common law and the mainland's civil law systems, with the aim of protecting the judiciary independence of the HKSAR and protecting human rights at the maximum level. 

Chinese top lawmakers also referred to the design of the security system in some Western countries such as the UK and the US in making the national security law for Hong Kong, observers said. 


Analysts also drew a clear line between the proposed new commissioner's office and the UK's notorious Special Branch inside the Hong Kong Police Force before the city's return to the motherland. The new commissioner's office would take on "defensive" work to protect national security, whereas the UK's Special Branch was on the "offensive" and used Hong Kong as a "frontier" for gathering intelligence on other countries, Lawrence Tang Fei, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times.

Specifically, the commissioner's office will handle cases that involve cross-border crimes that are beyond Hong Kong's jurisdiction and involve foreign diplomats who enjoy diplomatic immunity. "These cases are very hard for [local law enforcement agencies and judiciary system] to handle and the central government must step in," Tang said.

It also showed that the Chinese lawmakers did not simply copy the mainland's legal system and arrangements for safeguarding national security directly to the HKSAR, instead, they fully take international practices into account, the expert noted.

Saturday's announcement showed the highly anticipated legislation has entered the fast lane, which is widely believed to be enacted within a month.

Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the NPC Standing Committee from Hong Kong, told the Global Times on Saturday that the first reading of the draft law was completed on Saturday morning, and the committee's next session, during which legislators may vote on the law, could be held soon.

Normally, drafts go through three readings, but it can be reduced to two readings for drafts over which legislators have fewer disagreements, or even one reading for drafts targeting a single issue, Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong affairs expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times in an earlier interview. 

The draft is likely to go through one or two more readings before being submitted for a vote given the law's impact and urgency, he said. 

Some observers also forecast that Chinese legislators are likely to further accelerate the legislation process so that the law could be enacted as early as the end of this month.

The draft makes clear provisions on preventing, stopping and punishing four types of criminal acts in the HKSAR. These include acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security.

The draft is an important piece of legislation aimed at implementing the full NPC's decision made in late May on improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR to safeguard national security.

The highly anticipated legislation will directly strike against the US-controlled proxies and political groups in Hong Kong, that had previously incited trouble in the city with little concern about the consequences, some observers said.


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