The enacting of the national security law (NSL) for Hong Kong on June 30, 2020 marked a historical moment of this Chinese global city. At the eve of the 23rd anniversary of the city’s reunification to the motherland, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) finally has a powerful means to safeguard the foundation of its unique constitutional design – “one country, two systems.” As many had pointed out, without “one country,” it is pointless to say “two systems.” The uniqueness of this unprecedented design is that two parts of one country can have different systems, ideologically and practically, including different judiciary systems, different currency and many others. Yet without the “one country,” such comparison is meaningless.
Yet many had chosen to forget that the foundation of this unique design that gave Hong Kong its high degree of autonomy came from the National Constitution and the Basic Law. They argued that the NSL will erode or even destroy the “one country, two systems.” Nothing is farther from the truth. Basic Law article 14 states very clearly that “The Central People’s Government shall be responsible for the defense of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.” National security is part and parcel of defense and just as rightly pointed out in the NSL’s article 3: “The Central People’s Government has an overarching responsibility for national security affairs relating to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
It is definitely a challenge to enact a law drafted by the National People’s Congress’ standing committee which operates under a continental law regime in a common law regime like Hong Kong. A closer look at the article reveals the thoughtfulness of the drafting to ensure maximum compatibility of the NSL with the current legal and institutional framework of Hong Kong. The use of words and clauses resembles other Hong Kong laws, and the institutional design is fully integrated into the current Hong Kong framework. The Hong Kong SAR shall have jurisdiction over cases concerning offences under this law, with exception, however, under the following circumstances: (1) the case is complex due to the involvement of a foreign country or external elements, thus making it difficult for the Region to exercise jurisdiction over the case; (2) a serious situation occurs where the Government of the Region is unable to effectively enforce this Law; or (3) a major and imminent threat to national security has occurred. Contrary to some allegations, I believe this exception demonstrates the determination of the Central government in ensuring even in extreme adverse or complicated circumstances, national security is safeguarded.
In any modern nation, national security is not a matter to be dealt with lightly. The US has enacted at least seven national security-related federal statutes, including the National Security Act of 1947, and more recent ones such as the USA Patriot Act of 2001 and Homeland Security Act of 2002. But hypocrisy and double standards are nothing new in international politics. While the enactment may give hypocrites an excuse to impose sanctions on Hong Kong and China, we simply do not have a choice.
Ever since June last year, the lives and safety of people in Hong Kong had been severely impacted by a series of violent and sabotage activities.
While there are criminal laws that could deal with the violence, the lack of professional national security law enforcement agencies and the absence of a law preventing, suppressing and imposing punishment on those who organize, plan, fund and advocate crimes against national security make it difficult to deal with the problem at its root. The involvement of foreign forces was also not unnoticed. Territorial integrity and national security faced imminent danger. We have no choice but to beef up our defense, and the NSL fills this loophole.
While justice delayed is justice denied, it is never too late to mend. With the NSL as the guarding angel of “one country two systems,” let’s ensure there shall be no delay or absence of justice. And let Hong Kong again flourish under a safe and stable environment.