More national security work to do, warns Hong Kong leader amid crackdown – Radio Free Asia
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday vowed to expand the city-wide crackdown on anyone trying to “destabilize” the city and oppose China, with new laws in the works targeting media and online service providers, as well as expanded definitions of “espionage” and “terrorism.”
Lam also called for a new urban area near the border and a second high-speed rail link to nearby Shenzhen, in line with plans by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) to integrate Hong Kong and Macau into the ” Bay area ‘of the Pearl River Delta. promising to free up more land for development in the process.
Lam said the authorities “have spared no effort to fulfill our responsibility to prevent, suppress and punish acts and activities that endanger national security in accordance with the law.”
But she added that “there is still a lot of work” to be done, citing new national security legislation under Article 23 of the Basic Law “to prevent those who oppose China and attempt to destabilize Hong Kong to take advantage of the situation to deceive the public with bad intentions. “
The National Security Law, which entered into force on July 1, 2020, ushered in a continued, city-wide crackdown on all forms of public dissent and political opposition, with electoral rules amended to ensure that only pro-CCP candidates can run and dozens of former opposition lawmakers now behind bars on charges of “subversion.”
Lam said in his annual political speech on Wednesday that his administration will move forward with new legislation on espionage and other “secret” activities to continue cracking down on what Beijing insists on an attempt by hostile foreign powers to fomenting a “color revolution” in Hong Kong during the 2019 protest movement.
New laws will also be needed to “fight fake news” and “protect cybersecurity,” Lam said, with more regulations regarding “schools, social organizations, the media and the internet.”
Swearing-in ceremonies for anyone in public office will continue, she said. Dozens of pro-democracy politicians have been kicked out of the Legislative Council (LegCo) and District Council in recent months after an administration official ruled their oaths invalid.
Lam said the next elections for her replacement and for LegCo in December would be held on the basis of “patriots running Hong Kong”.
Electoral changes made after a landslide victory for pro-democracy candidates after months of mass popular protests will likely ensure that no pro-democracy candidate will be approved to run for the LegCo election, while the proportion of candidates chosen by one Beijing-backed committee grew up.
Lam welcomed the massive resignation of pro-democracy lawmakers to protest the expulsion of their colleagues at the end of 2020.
“Since the members who clashed to oppose the LegCo left in November of last year, the current legislative session has seen fruitful results,” she said.
She said government broadcaster RTHK and LegCo have both been ordered to “show respect for the national flag, national emblem and national anthem”, following a restructuring of RTHK which means that the content of the program is subject to the approval of a committee supported by the government.
The officials will also receive additional high-level training in “national studies”, with visits to mainland China, Lam said.
Develop the border area
Lam also discussed plans for greater social and economic integration with the neighboring city of Shenzhen, unveiling plans to develop the border area into a “metropolitan area” of 300 square kilometers.
She also announced plans for a new Hong Kong-Shenzhen Western cross-border railway connecting Hung Shui Kiu to the Qianhai Special Economic Zone, another part of the economic integration plan.
Democratic Party Chairman Lo Kin-hei said Lam’s political speech was not aimed at Hong Kong’s seven million people, but his bosses in Beijing.
“The main audience for this political speech was not the people of Hong Kong, but the central government [in Beijing]Lo told reporters. “She is fighting for re-election [by Beijing’s supporters], not for the support of the people. “
Hong Kong media quoted government sources as saying that a new cybersecurity law will regulate water and electricity providers, the Mass Transit Railway and other major infrastructure service providers, who will have to appoint a person responsible for ensuring security.
While details of Hong Kong’s new legislation have yet to be made public, some fear it will include legislation similar to that passed in Singapore on October 4, which requires internet service providers to “avoid threats to national security and sovereignty “.
Singapore’s new law requires ISPs, social media platforms, and website owners to provide data, block content, and remove apps that serve “hostile” content.
“Provisions too vague”
Zhuang Jiaying, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the National University of Singapore, said many provisions of the law are too vague.
“The regulations talk about participating in matters of public controversy or political disputes, which is a bit vague,” Zhuang said. “One of the possible ways to break the law is to ‘reduce confidence in the Singapore government’, which is also a bit vague.”
“Some people wonder if the law on the prevention of foreign intervention really targets political opponents (…) because there is a lot of room for interpretation by administrative officials and law enforcement officials”, a- he declared.
“Some of the interpretations are made at the political level rather than the legislative level, and can be changed at any time at the discretion of the decision maker of the day.”
Journalist Han Liying said she could be targeted under the law simply for receiving foreign funding, in a manner similar to the suppression of civil society under the National Security Act in Hong Kong.
“We have made it clear on several occasions that we have not participated in activities subject to foreign interference, but these details are of no use,” she told RFA. “What worries me is that this law will give the ruling party more powers to prosecute my [organization], or other independent media and civil society organizations. “
“This bill is actually very easy to abuse,” Han said.
Zhuang said the new foreign interference law gives the Singaporean government additional powers to regulate the internet, which was not included in the city-state’s national security legislation.
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.