Draft law shows lawmakers have a clear idea of how to protect national security: China Daily editorial

(Photo: IC)

It is enforcement that makes a law effective. Those who have drawn up the draft law on safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region seem to have borne that in mind, since apart from the conventional content of such a law, they have proposed establishing two bodies in the SAR directly related to enforcement of the proposed law.

The draft, which the country's top legislature has now completed its first review of, has six chapters and 66 articles covering general principles: the HKSAR's duties and institutions to safeguard national security; crimes and penalties; jurisdiction over national security cases, application of the law and procedures; institutions of the central government in the SAR for safeguarding national security; and supplementary provisions.

Since it is likely that the activities that constitute the four types of crimes covered by the law — separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces — and their punishments will be similar to those set out in the national security law introduced in the Macao Special Administrative Region in 2009, it is the requirement that the SAR establish a commission to safeguard national security and its provision that the central government establish an office for safeguarding national security in the SAR that have now drawn the most attention and criticism.

Yet the national security office will only "supervise, guide and support" the local government in maintaining national security. Except in specific circumstances, the Hong Kong authorities will be responsible for criminal cases related to national security.

Likewise the commission, although it will have a national security adviser appointed by the central government will be chaired by Hong Kong's chief executive, and if it is modeled on the one that was established in Macao in 2018 without much fuss, it will also include the HKSAR's security, police and justice chiefs.

Although the executive organs, legislature and judiciary of the SAR bear the constitutional responsibility to safeguard national security in Hong Kong, as the draft stipulates, these two new organs provide the central authorities' support for the SAR's enforcement of the national security legislation.

With the public order in the SAR being undermined by separatist-minded unrest endorsed by foreign patrons for more than a year, and having escalated into "stir all" terrorism, the two new institutions will ensure the law on national security has the necessary enforcement potential to deter the four crimes that threaten national security.

As the recent unrest in the SAR has highlighted, national security is not only a political issue but also related to the well-being of residents, the proposed legislation will better forestall threats to the country's sovereignty and security and help maintain law and order in the SAR.