Former Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing has said the local and central governments need to figure out and explain their plan for laws protecting national security in Hong Kong, which Communist Party leaders called for last month.
Tsang added that the city was too divided to enact such laws on its own.
His remarks came a day after Zhang Xiaoming, director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office under the State Council, said Hong Kong urgently needed to enact national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law. He said unrest in the city, which has raged for the past five months, had exposed the need for stronger measures against foreign forces using Hong Kong to undermine China.
Zhang made the comments in an article written after Communist Party leaders ended their plenary meeting in Beijing last month with a communique pledging to “establish a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security” in Hong Kong and Macau.
On a TVB programme on Sunday, Tsang said Article 23 legislation could only come in under a suitable social atmosphere. The government shelved a national security bill in 2003 after 500,000 people took to the streets to oppose it, fearing it would undermine civil liberties.
“Is the social atmosphere favourable now?” Tsang asked. “Article 23 legislation cannot be done by Beijing asking for it and the chief executive agreeing to do it.”
Tsang added that while the central government called for the establishment of mechanisms for safeguarding national security, it did not explain the details.
“How can we establish such mechanisms? I don’t know if the central government has been studying that, but Zhang did not elaborate on this point in his article,” he said.
“We need to have more studies on how such mechanisms can be established.”
Statements after the plenum said Beijing would strengthen supervision of the city’s affairs. Apart from national security, it also said Beijing would “enhance the system and mechanism over the appointment of the chief executive and principal officials”.
Tsang said there had also been a lack of details on how these measures could be implemented.
If [Beijing] does not make its stance clear, the problem could grow bigger and it could be difficult to handle
Tam Yiu-chung, National People’s Congress Standing Committee member
“Beijing [officials] have also said that Hong Kong should handle its own affairs. So when the central government says it wants to exercise its powers [over Hong Kong], what kinds of power are they talking about, and how?” he asked.
“I hope central government officials such as Zhang can explain that in a more detailed way.”
Speaking on a Commercial Radio programme, Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the country’s top legislative body, said Beijing had to make its stance clear, though he noted only a small minority in Hong Kong supported the city’s separation from China.
“If it does not make its stance clear, the problem could grow bigger and it could be difficult to handle,” he said.