HK national security law 'likely' within one month
By Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2020/6/10 22:18:52
Setting up a new unit within the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) does not necessarily mean the capabilities of the Chinese mainland's affiliated national security agency in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) in enforcing the law would be weakened.
On the contrary, the coordination mechanism between the two would be further improved in joint operations involving national security-related cases, sources close to the matter told the Global Times on Wednesday.
To accelerate the process of formulating the national security law for Hong Kong, two senior officials - Zhang Yong, vice-chairman of the Basic Law Committee under the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee, and Song Zhe, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council - attended a forum held by the Hong Kong Coalition to report public opinions from various sectors in Hong Kong on Wednesday, Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, deputy secretary-general of the coalition, told the Global Times.
About 80 attendees from various sectors including finance, community work and legal work, shared their views of the upcoming national security law for the HKSAR.
"There are some topics of concern related to the new law such as law enforcement mechanisms. Most attendees who reported public opinion to the senior officials from Beijing agreed that Hong Kong needs to set up a special court in handling national security-related cases," he said.
He also said that the HKPF needs to coordinate with agencies set up by the mainland's national security organs, as they lack experience in handling national security as well as terrorism-related cases.
Since the NPC voted to pass a draft decision on establishing the law on May 28, central authorities have held at least five forums to absorb public opinions from the Hong Kong society.
The forums included one where HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam, together with Secretary of Justice Teresa Cheng, Commissioner of the HKPF Chris Tang and Secretary for Security John Lee, came to Beijing to meet with Vice Premier Han Zheng and other senior officials of the central government, to exchange views.
"Given frequent meetings that involve reporting public views on the law, the process of drafting is expected to accelerate further. Most attendees also expressed the hope that the law would be enacted as soon as possible," Wong said.
The meeting of the Council of Chairpersons of the NPC Standing Committee decided on Tuesday to convene the 19th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee from June 18-20 in Beijing, and they proposed the agenda for the session, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
After the issue of the decision in drafting the law, the NPC Standing Committee would work with related parties to formulate relevant laws and bills, which usually go through three readings in the committee before being enacted, according to the Legislation Law.
Chinese lawmakers usually meet every two months, but interim meetings can be held when there is a special need, leading to speculations that the draft decision of the upcoming national security law for Hong Kong would be signed into law within six months, or even sooner.
However, the agenda for the next meeting did not include deliberating the draft of this highly anticipated law, as the Xinhua report showed.
"We can't rule out the possibility that the NPC Standing Committee will hold interim meetings in enacting the law, as senior officials have been working day and night in drafting the legislature and listening to public opinion from Hong Kong across a broad scale," Wong said, noting that the law is likely to take effect within a month.
When it comes to the nationality of judges in hearing national security-related cases, those who reported the opinion findings to the officials from Beijing did not agree with an earlier claim by the Hong Kong Secretary of Justice Cheng about not ruling out foreign judges, the deputy secretary-general of the coalition noted.
"Zhang and Song did not jump to any conclusion, but they carefully took in what those attendees proposed," he said, noting that those who proposed suggestions all showed concern over foreign judges in cases related to foreign spies.
Cheng was quoted in earlier reports as saying that there are no grounds to bar foreign judges from ruling on national security cases, a comment that aroused heated discussion in Hong Kong and the mainland.
Other issues raised by attendees to the forum included how the clauses of the law would be deliberated in an accurate and detailed manner; how the law would only affect a specifically targeted group of people who endanger national security while it wouldn't affect the freedom of speech of the Hong Kong majority, and how to guarantee their legitimate rights.
"From passing the draft decision to enacting the law, it's now a period of listening to what Hong Kong people think and seeking a path toward coordination between the mainland and Hong Kong authorities in forming a double-level law enforcement mechanism," Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan at Nankai University in Tianjin, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
"Both sides need to make adjustments in order to better fit into this new mechanism. One thing for sure is that Hong Kong officials have more courage to use available legal means to ensure law enforcement," he said.
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