Hong Kong’s leader has refuted comments from a former minister who warned that the national security law could be “weaponised” for unrelated issues under public order, saying instead the legislation was in place to “punish evils”.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, speaking in a media briefing on Tuesday, also said rather than worrying about the law being used as a political tool, it was financial systems and social media that were being used by anti-establishment forces.
In a book talk on Monday, former transport minister Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, now a professor of public administration at Education University, said the biggest problem with the issue of national security around the world was not whether countries had laws or enforcement agencies to safeguard this, but whether such legislation could be “weaponised”.
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“Since the law is really ‘easy’ to use, many things, which could just be public order issues and are not within the scope of national security, could be elevated to become national security issues,” he said.
The controversial law for Hong Kong went into force on June 30 to prohibit acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with external forces.
Opposition lawmakers and foreign politicians said the legislation would be used to silence dissent, but officials argued that foreign governments who criticised the sweeping law held double standards, as they also had regulations to protect their own sovereignty.
The law was imposed to punish evils. I cannot understand why it can be related to weaponisation
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong leader
Responding to a question on safeguarding national security in Hong Kong, Lam on Tuesday took the opportunity to address Cheung’s remarks without naming him: “I was very surprised about [the warning] … The law was imposed to punish evils. I cannot understand why it can be related to weaponisation.”
She went on to name other mediums that were purportedly being used as weapons against Hong Kong, such as financial systems that had become a “weapon to impose sanctions”.
“Social media platforms have been used as a weapon for doxxing over the past year. This explains why we need this righteous law to protect the safety of citizens,” Lam said, referring to the months of civil unrest last year, triggered by the now-withdrawn extradition bill.
The largest operation since the enactment of the legislation took place last week, when Apple Daily founder Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and opposition activists were arrested, while more than 200 police officers raided the premises of the tabloid-style newspaper.
Asked if she would rope in the new mainland agency in Hong Kong for the high-profile case, Lam did not rule out the possibility, but said the Office for Safeguarding National Security would only exercise jurisdiction over cases under specific situations, according to Article 55 of the law.
The legislation states that the agency will only step in if the case is complex due to the involvement of a foreign country, or when the local government is unable to enforce the law amid imminent threats to national security.
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