• By: OLM Staff

Article 23 Legislation in Hong Kong: A Path Towards Stability and Thriving Development

By H.E. CONG Peiwu, Chinese Ambassador to Canada

Many Canadian friends I talked with recently expressed their keen interest in the impact of the completion of legislation of Article 23, namely the Safeguarding National Security Bill of Hong Kong which has just been unanimously passed by the Hong Kong Legislative Council, on Hong Kong’s governance. I told them that Article 23 is the answer to the required question for Hong Kong’s pursuit of stability and thriving development. I hereby would like to elaborate further in this regard.

Hong Kong returned to her motherland on July 1st, 1997. The Hong Kong Basic Law clearly indicated that “The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) shall enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations or bodies”.

However, due to obstructions from external hostile forces and internal destabilising elements, Hong Kong has once failed to complete the legislation on Article 23 after its return to the motherland more than 26 years ago. Hong Kong urgently needs to plug the loopholes in safeguarding national security.

Eventually, after 26 years, the Safeguarding National Security Bill of Hong Kong addressed public concerns, safeguarded security, and protected development. It is a symbol that the HKSAR has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility as stipulated in Article 23 of the Basic Law and that significant progress has been made in optimizing the HKSAR’s legal system and law enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security. As an important milestone in the development of One Country, Two Systems in the new era upon the new journey, Article 23 legislation now provides an important systematic safeguard for the acceleration of Hong Kong’s transition towards stability and thriving development.

The completion of Article 23 legislation consolidates the national security foundation in Hong Kong. Security is the prerequisite for development, and the rule of law is the cornerstone of prosperity. The Safeguarding National Security Bill of Hong Kong strikes a balance between safeguarding national security and upholding rights, freedom and economic development, and fully draws on other countries’ legislation experience in the same field. The bill helps the HKSAR to further coordinate between development and security, better harness Hong Kong’s unique status and advantage, and deepen closer and more open exchanges and cooperation between Hong Kong and countries as well as regions in the world, certainly including Canada.

The completion of Article 23 legislation facilitates the sound implementation of One Country, Two Systems in the long run. President Xi Jinping reiterated last year that the central authorities will fully, firmly and accurately implement the One Country, Two Systems policy for a long time. The full and accurate implementation of the policy is the prerequisite. To meet that prerequisite, it is essential to stay committed to the top priority of the One Country, Two Systems policy — safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests. Article 23 will, together with Hong Kong National Security Law, become important legal safeguards for the implementation of One Country, Two Systems. As a result, with the principle of One Country getting stronger and the advantages of Two Systems becoming more obvious, One Country, Two Systems will certainly sail further in a more stable manner.

The completion of Article 23 legislation wins overwhelming support from all walks of life in Hong Kong. The government held some 30 consultation sessions to comprehensively explain the law in great detail and listen extensively and carefully to views and suggestions. A total submission of 13,489 suggestions was received, with a support ratio of 98.6%. People from all sectors, including major political parties, social organizations, business chambers, and professional associations, expressed their unanimous support. Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, the Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong, the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, and the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce issued a joint statement that welcomed the public consultation and legislative work by the government, highlighting the necessity to implement Article 23 with no delay. Foreign business chambers and enterprises in Hong Kong showed their support and understanding of the legislation in their own ways.

The tumultuous history of Hong Kong has been over. Hong Kong’s stability would surely last with the law. The Chinese government has unwavering resolve in safeguarding its national sovereignty, security and development interests, in implementing One Country, Two Systems and in opposing any external interference in Hong Kong’s affairs. Any attacks and smears from the few Western countries, such as Canada, against the Safeguarding National Security Bill will not have their way and are doomed to failure. With high-level security guarantee, we are fully confident in Hong Kong achieving high-quality development and high-standard opening up and we are fully confident in the sound implementation of One Country, Two Systems in the long run and Hong Kong’s stability and thriving development!

(Hong Kong Legislative Council unanimously passed the Safeguarding National Security Bill on March 19th)