Hong Kong’s leader has vowed to introduce a swathe of new security laws for the city, in an address opening the first legislative sitting since the “patriots only” election cemented the removal of opposition from government.
Carrie Lam did not detail the new crimes that would be created in the planned “local legislation”, which would meet a constitutional requirement for Hong Kong to have its own national security law.
The requirement laid out in article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, lists treason, secession, sedition, subversion and theft of state secrets.
Article 23 also prohibits foreign political organisations from conducting political activities in Hong Kong, or having ties with local political organisations.
Hong Kong’s existing national security law was imposed by Beijing in June 2020, outlawing broadly defined acts as secession, foreign collusion, subversion and terrorism. Both Lam and Beijing had said it was necessary to impose the law because Hong Kong had not been able to pass its own – having faced opposition and protests over previous attempts.
Beijing’s law has been used to arrest more than 150 people, including journalists and opposition politicians, amid a broader crackdown which has targeted thousands and sent others fleeing overseas after the mass pro-democracy protests of 2019 and 2020.
The most recent iteration of the crackdown on dissent saw an electoral overhaul to ensure that “only patriots govern Hong Kong”, which the UK handed back to China in 1997, reducing residents’ democratic participation in the election of the legislative council and introducing extensive roadblocks to those who oppose the pro-Beijing government from running.
The 20 December election saw the lowest voter turnout in decades and prompted several governments around the world to express concern about the “erosion of democratic elements” after pro-Beijing candidates took nearly every seat.
In her speech on Wednesday, Lam said: “With the leadership and staunch support of the CG, Hong Kong was now back on the right track of one country, two systems.”
With a chief executive election process scheduled for March, Lam pledged to use the rest of her tenure to establish a “constructive and interactive relationship” between government and the legislature, “to address longstanding problems in society in order one day to claim recognition from the public on the approved electoral system and build a bright future together”.