Expert refutes describing jurisdiction exercise of central govt office in HK as a 'delivery to Chinese mainland'

By Fan Lingzhi Published: 2020/7/6 3:52:18

The Hong Kong Celebrations Association, a non-profit organization, held various activities to celebrate the passage of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland. Photo: China News Service

China's State Council Friday announced the appointment of a director and deputy directors for the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the central government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), which is the fourth institute the central government set up in the region. 

The other three are the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison and the office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR. 

Although clear answers to when the central government's Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong shall enforce the law can be found in the national security law for Hong Kong, some Hong Kong media still used the term "song zhong", which means "delivery to Chinese mainland", to describe its actions. 

Opponents of the extradition bill described their protest movement as "fan song zhong" - anti-delivery to Chinese mainland. As "Song zhong" is also a homophone for the phrase meaning "to see off a dying relative," "fan song zhong" in Chinese has the same pronunciation as "anti-sending to death." 

Tang Fei, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said the term was originally "political rhetoric" taught by some Taiwan secessionists to the Hong Kong opposition. 

"Whether it's said in Cantonese or Putonghua, the opposition tried to use the term to imply that people that were sent back to the mainland is similar to being sent to death. Their intentions are extremely vicious," Tang said. 

Regarding the appointment announced on Friday, Tang said that it indicated the meaning of "the staff of the Office shall be jointly dispatched" as regulated in the 48th article of the national security law for Hong Kong. 

"Zheng Yanxiong [who has been appointed as the director of the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the central government in the HKSAR] used to work locally and shows comprehensive experience in various aspects; he also has working experience in the political and legal system. Not to mention that he is also a Guangdong native and can speak Cantonese," Tang said, noting that these capabilities give Zheng an advantage in coordinating work. 

Li Jiangzhou, who is appointed as a deputy director of the office, is from the Ministry of Public Security and had worked in the liaison office before. He is professional and familiar with the Hong Kong's situation, so he can assist Zheng in implementing work that he is professional at, Tang said.

Publicized information about another deputy director Sun Qingye is not easily accessible. Some people believe that he has a background working in national security agencies. Overall, it is a team containing professionals in various fields. 

The national security law for Hong Kong defines mandates for the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the central government in Hong Kong: 

(1) analysing and assessing developments in relation to safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and providing opinions and making proposals on major strategies and important policies for safeguarding national security;

(2) overseeing, guiding, coordinating with, and providing support to the Region in the performance of its duties for safeguarding national security;

(3) collecting and analysing intelligence and information concerning national security; and

(4) handling cases concerning offence endangering national security in accordance with the law.

Tang said that the four mandates are paratactic without differentiation between priority and others. "The first three mandates are more like daily responsibilities while the forth would be carried out when the situation is serious, if the central government 'has to take action,' which we are not hoping to see," he said. 

Article 55 of the national security law for Hong Kong clarifies situations when the central government office in Hong Kong can exercise jurisdiction over a case.

Tang noted that the provisions in the national security law are not the same thing as so-called "song zhong." Firstly, the extradition bill did not target national security crimes, but certain serious economic crimes and criminal cases. Secondly, the crime location and handling procedures of the main crimes targeted by the national security law and the extradition bill are also completely different.

Will the office propose and report to the central government for approval to exercise jurisdiction without informing the HKSAR government? Will there be a situation where the HKSAR government is unaware and thus undermines its governance? Regarding such questions, Tang believes that there is no need to worry at all.

Even in this situation, it does not mean that the central government and the office in Hong Kong will not inform the HKSAR government because there is a national security advisor in the HKSAR committee for safeguarding national security. Meanwhile, the national security law for Hong Kong also stipulates coordination, information sharing and cooperation. 

It means that all agencies will keep close contact in safeguarding national security, he said. 

What's notable is that the 54th article of the national security law for Hong Kong calls for "necessary measures to strengthen the management of and services for organs of foreign countries and international organizations in the Region, as well as non-governmental organizations and news agencies of foreign countries."

Tang said that from a long time in the past Western countries led by the US have infringed into Hong Kong via non-governmental organizations under the disguise of "charity," "academia" and "religious communication," behind which hides informants from western governments and even military intelligence units. 

The situation is similar to foreign news agencies. There is no management rule for news agencies in Hong Kong currently. Anybody can claim themselves to be an "individual journalist" or "citizen journalist". Under these circumstances, authorities can do nothing even if they know certain institutes are suspected to be spy agencies. 

But now the national security law for Hong Kong provides legal basis to manage these foreign non-profit organizations and news agencies, Tang said. He noted that such management is normal and western countries are also doing the same. 

"The key is not to supervise these organizations, but to supervise whether they violate the law, interfere in Hong Kong's internal affairs or damage China's national security."

Supervision over staff of the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the central government in the HKSAR also drew public attention. 

According to the 50th article of the law, the staff of the Office shall abide by the laws of the HKSAR as well as national laws.  

Article 60 says that the acts performed in the course of duty by the Office and its staff in accordance with this law shall not be subject to the jurisdiction of the HKSAR. 

Tang explained that staff of the office are dispatched by the central government so it's impossible for local governments to supervise them. But this does not mean that the staff would not be under supervision. They would be supervised as Article 50 stipulates. Tang believes that the department above the office would also supervise and manage the office. 


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