Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥) yesterday said that the territory would create a host of new national security crimes, as she presided over the first session of a new “patriots only” Legislative Council scrubbed of political opposition.
The legislation would add to a sweeping National Security Law imposed directly on Hong Kong by Beijing that has transformed the territory and empowered authorities to carry out a widespread crackdown on dissent.
The current National Security Law defines four crimes — secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces — and offenders can face up to life in prison.
However, Lam yesterday confirmed that her government would create new “local legislation” that meets Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which calls for the territory to pass its own national security laws.
“Article 23 legislative work is part of Hong Kong’s constitutional duty and cannot be further delayed,” Lam told lawmakers, adding that the government aimed to publish a draft by June.
Lam did not outline what the new crimes would be.
However, the specific offenses Article 23 lists are treason, secession, sedition, subversion and theft of state secrets. It also includes prohibiting any foreign political organizations from conducting activities in Hong Kong or local political organizations establishing ties with similar overseas bodies.
Lam also used the opportunity to criticize former legislators who she said were “anti-China and who have attempted to destabilize Hong Kong, had tried to politicize council businesses and made it difficult for LegCo to fully perform its functions.”
Since the expulsion or resignation of opposition legislators, the council has enjoyed a “fruitful year marked with a constructive and interactive relationship between the LegCo and the executive authorities with remarkable achievements,” she added.
A small committee of Beijing loyalists are to choose Hong Kong’s next leader in March, and Lam has not yet said whether she would stand for a second term.
Her first term ends in June.
Lam said it would be difficult for the new national security bill to be completed by the end of her first term, meaning the legislation would probably fall to her successor.
Addressing a chamber whose walls now bear China’s red-and-gold national emblem — placed above Hong Kong’s official seal — Lam praised Beijing’s security law.
“Its function now is to act as an anchor to guarantee stability, to let people know there are consequences,” she told lawmakers, adding that the new legislation would be similarly “well written.”
“The law requires us to prevent, curb and punish crimes. If prevention is done well, we can punish less,” she said.
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