Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong continued its barrage of criticism over the city’s affairs, slamming “anti-China” politicians and foreign forces on Sunday for opposing national security legislation and glorifying the criminal acts of the city’s radical protesters.
The office, which has been asserting its authority amid a controversy over the limits of its power as Beijing’s representative in the city, warned a day earlier that Hong Kong would have no future if anti-government protesters returned to violence instead of working together to battle the coronavirus crisis.
On Sunday, the office targeted the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), a US Congress-funded, American pro-democracy group, for an April 23 report that accused Beijing of falsely blaming last year’s social unrest on “malevolent foreign forces” and urged the central government to “refrain from any further moves that undermine Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy”.
A spokesperson for the office said the NDI’s 36-page report was “filled with lies, applied double standards, and distorted the truth of the unrest” triggered by the government’s now-withdrawn extradition bill.
“[The report] glorified the series of inhuman, terrifying, criminal acts of extremists who ignored the rule of law as a fight over democratisation,” the statement continued. “The untrue remarks of these politicians is a violation of international law and the basic norms of international relations. This is another example of gross interference in the affairs of Hong Kong and China by external forces.”
A source close to the liaison office pointed out that the US itself had enacted a number of laws in the name of national security, and questioned the NDI’s double standards in only opposing similar legislation in Hong Kong.
The liaison office went on to lambast “Western anti-China politicians” for “engaging in wild talk” about Article 23 – the clause in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, requiring passage of national security legislation.
The office accused them of “irrationally attacking” the one country, two systems governing policy that allowed Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy under Chinese sovereignty.
“[This] is a universally recognised fact that should not be smeared,” it said.
Hong Kong’s sole representative on the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China's top legislative body, argued on Sunday that passage of Article 23 was precisely what was needed to counter such problems.
Tam Yiu-chung urged the local government to put it on the Legislative Council agenda and launch a consultation process in September, with an eye toward passage no later than August 2021.
The pro-Beijing heavyweight told the Post there was a sense of urgency, given concerns over the potential return of pro-independence forces that persisted despite the banning of the Hong Kong National Party and the arrests of its core members in 2018.
“The previous arrests didn’t mean the forces have been completely curbed. We still need laws to safeguard national security,” Tam said.
When asked if such a proposal could reignite the anti-government unrest that kicked off last June, Tam said: “How many more years should we be scared about a bill that has been shelved since 2003?”
Attempts to pass a national security law in 2003 sparked mass protests, leading to the legislation being shelved.
Tam’s comments follow repeated calls by Beijing's top official in Hong Kong, Luo Huining, for a legal mechanism to combat foreign interference to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests.
Asked about the perceived double standards on security laws, Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a retired political science professor, said it was understandable Western politicians had reservations about the enactment of such a law in Hong Kong given Beijing’s tightening grip on the city.
“All bills in the US have gone through proper consultation and the government has been accountable to electorates in the legislative procedures,” he said. “But in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, they fear opposing voices will not be fully reflected in the legislative process, especially following Beijing’s recent acts of ‘redefining’ the Basic Law.”
Meanwhile, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung wrote in his blog on Sunday that questions over “two systems” were irrelevant when it came to national security, which the Basic Law clearly placed within Beijing’s jurisdiction.
“Safeguarding national sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and development interests is the constitutional responsibility of Hong Kong as a part of the country,” he said, without referring to Article 23.
Separately, Tam revealed that the Hong Kong Coalition, an alliance recently launched by former city leaders Tung Chee-hwa and Leung Chun-ying, would announce its plans at a Tuesday press conference.
Help us understand what you are interested in so that we can improve SCMP and provide a better experience for you. We would like to invite you to take this five-minute survey on how you engage with SCMP and the news.
More from South China Morning Post: