Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng has urged Hong Kong’s law enforcement officers to “firmly and effectively” safeguard national security and the city’s rule of law, while “comprehensively and accurately” implementing the “one country, two systems” governing principle.
Meeting a 120-strong delegation led by Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu on Monday, Han – ranked No 7 in the Communist Party hierarchy – also “fully recognised” officers’ hard work in making a success of the governing formula that allows the city a high degree of autonomy.
According to a source, Han made no mention of Hong Kong’s obligation to enact national security legislation under its mini-constitution, independence advocacy in the city, or the recent controversy over separatist talk by the leader of the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP).
The hour-long, closed-door meeting was the first between Han and an official delegation from Hong Kong since he was officially confirmed as Beijing’s top state leader in charge of the city’s affairs. Just two weeks ago, he attended an unprecedented meeting in the capital along with Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
Monday’s meeting was seen by commentators as a strong signal of Beijing’s support for the city’s law enforcement officers.
“The city’s police force has been on the forefront when it comes to curbing Hong Kong independence … so their job is not just to maintain public order, but to defend national security, too,” said Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank.
The delegation included police, immigration, customs, fire services and correctional services representatives from Hong Kong.
Addressing them in the Great Hall of the People, Han hailed the implementation of one country, two systems as a great success.
“The merits and contribution of Hong Kong disciplined forces was behind this success,” Han told them. “You have been dutiful, selfless and fearless. The disciplined forces’ excellence and professionalism has generally been praised by Hong Kong residents. The central government fully recognises the work of the forces.”
Han noted the delegation’s visit came on the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening up.
“This fully shows the disciplined forces’ sense of national identity and patriotism,” the vice-premier said.
The Hong Kong security delegation has visited the capital every two or three years since 2006.
Xinhua, China’s state news agency, reported that Han had also urged the delegation to “understand and implement one country, two systems comprehensively and accurately, firmly and effectively safeguard national security and Hong Kong’s rule of law, and provide high-quality service for Hong Kong people”.
Lee replied that law enforcement agencies would “make greater contributions in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and developmental interests, as well as in maintaining Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability”.
The security minister is currently deciding whether to act on an unprecedented proposal from police to ban the HKNP as a threat to national security.
According to a source who attended the meeting, Lee also assured Han he would unite the city’s disciplined forces.
“Lee said the united forces would cooperate with the country on its development, including governance in accordance with the law and the city’s prosperity and stability,” the source said.
Lee also touched on the controversial “co-location” joint checkpoint arrangement that will allow mainland officials to enforce their laws over a designated zone at the West Kowloon station for the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link, which will start running on September 23, the source added.
Beijing has always wanted to implement things which it intended to do in Macau first, to create an expectation [and ask] why Hong Kong can’t do the same
Johnny Lau Yui-siu, China watcher
Lee is expected to be back in Hong Kong on Tuesday evening, while the rest of the delegation will visit Shanghai and Hangzhou before returning home on Saturday.
Meanwhile in Macau, the Executive Council of the former Portuguese enclave on Monday completed its discussion to set up a commission to oversee its policies in defence of national security.
The commission, which would become effective 30 days after Monday’s announcement, would be chaired by the chief executive of Macau, Fernando Chui Sai-on, with members including the security secretary, police chief and the director of the Justice Affairs Department.
It would be responsible for coordinating the city’s effort in defending national sovereignty, security and interests, analysing the city’s situation regarding national security and social stability, and helping develop relevant policies.
Unlike Hong Kong, Macau already enacted its own national security law in 2009 as required by its mini-constitution. A similar effort in Hong Kong was in vain in 2003, after half a million of Hongkongers took to the streets in fear that their freedoms and rights would be curbed.
Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu said the development in Macau would inevitably exert more pressure on Hong Kong to accelerate its pace in legislating the national security law.
“Beijing has always wanted to implement things which it intended to do in Macau first, to create an expectation [and ask] why Hong Kong can’t do the same,” Lau said. However, he said he believed Beijing would not forcibly push the national security legislation ahead in Hong Kong as such attempt is set to trigger backlash in the international community.
But Macau-based political commentator Larry So Man-yum argued that the establishment of the commission was more a “preventive” measure in a bid to avoid the rise of the separatist sentiments in Hong Kong in recent years spreading to the casino city.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong needs national security law but only when time is right says Carrie Lam, after top Beijing official says Andy Chan’s pro-independence speech showed city’s ‘inadequacies’
- Outrage over Hong Kong independence leader Andy Chan’s speech only reinforces his message
- Hong Kong’s democrats need to focus on ‘prize’ of universal suffrage rather than independence, leading US academic Larry Diamond says