Enacting Laws to Safeguard National Security is in line with International Practice
It is the legitimate right and duty of every state to safeguard its national security, and enacting laws to safeguard national security is in line with international practice. This notwithstanding, the United States and western countries have been deliberately vilifying and making false allegations against the enactment and the implementation of the National Security Law, and "demonising" the enactment of legislation on Article 23 of the Basic Law. The truth is that these countries have enacted laws to safeguard national security, and made amendments to such laws from time to time.
In particular, I take note of the recent introduction by the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom (UK) into the UK Parliament of the National Security Bill, which is wide-ranging, highlighting national security risks from foreign states including espionage, foreign interference in political system, sabotage, disinformation, cyber operations, etc., and expressing the need for the UK to "legislate to get ahead of this threat".
The National Security Bill of the UK introduces a series of new offences of a very wide coverage and a number of measures which restrict civil rights. The vast majority of the offences proposed in the Bill have extra-territorial application, regardless of the nationality of the person or place of establishment of the organisation committing the offence. The proposed offences and measures include -
- reforming existing law related to espionage, including reforming the offence of obtaining or disclosing protected information, and introducing new offences that aim at protection of trade secrets and addressing the act of assisting a foreign intelligence service respectively;
- introducing the new offences of sabotage and foreign interference, to guard against state-backed sabotage against critical sites, data and infrastructure, etc., and conduct engaged on behalf of, or intending to benefit, foreign power through means of criminal acts, coercion or disinformation, etc., with the intent of having an effect of affecting the exercise of public functions, manipulating political processes, or prejudicing national safety or interests;
- enhancing the UK police’s investigation powers, including exercising search powers in urgent cases without prior authorisation by the court, and detaining arrested persons without charge for a maximum of 14 days;
- introducing restrictions on convicted terrorists’ access to civil legal aid, and empowering the court to make freezing or forfeiture orders in respect of civil damages at risk of being used for the purposes of terrorism; and
- empowering the Secretary of State to impose in a targeted manner "state threat prevention and investigation measures" on individuals whom the Secretary of State reasonably believes to be involved in "foreign power state threat activity". The restrictions concerned cover a myriad of aspects including residence, travel, entry into area or place, movement, use of electronic communication device, financial services, work or studies, etc., and even a requirement to participate in polygraph sessions.
The HKSAR Government has been taking forward the work in respect of the enactment of legislation on Article 23 of the Basic Law, with a view to fulfilling the constitutional responsibility of the HKSAR and enhancing the laws on safeguarding national security. In this connection, apart from effectively tackling past and present national security risks and threats, the legislative proposals should also be sufficiently forward-looking, and practicable in terms of implementation and capable of effectively safeguarding national security. Apart from examining relevant national laws as well as local laws, we will also make reference to laws of similar nature in other jurisdictions, including the National Security Bill of the UK mentioned above, with a view to devising a proposal that best suits the actual circumstances of Hong Kong. When the HKSAR Government carries out the consultation for enactment of legislation on Article 23 of the Basic Law, I hope different parties (in particular foreign politicians) can consider our proposal objectively and rationally, and not to ignore the vast scope of the laws of the United States and western countries on safeguarding national security. I also call on them to refrain from making wanton attacks with "double standards", or trying to interfere with or sabotage the legislative work of the HKSAR Government.
Mr TANG Ping-keung
Secretary for Security
Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region