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ARTICLE: The Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has become effective. It clearly stipulates that human rights shall be respected and protected in safeguarding national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). The rights and freedoms, including the freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration, which the residents of the Region enjoy under the Basic Law of the HKSAR and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong, shall be protected in accordance with the law. The legislation only targets four types of offences, namely, secession, subversion, terrorist activities and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security. It is designed to deter and sanction a small minority in Hong Kong who are involved in offences seriously jeopardizing national security. It aims to protect the great majority of law-abiding Hong Kong residents, and safeguard their safety and lawful rights and freedoms. The legislation sets clear limits on and requires that all law enforcement efforts be conducted in strict accordance with legal provisions and statutory mandates and procedures, without prejudice to the lawful rights and interests of any individual or organization. It also provides that the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR shall perform its mandate in strict compliance with the law and be subject to supervision in accordance with the law. The staff of the Office shall abide by the laws of the HKSAR as well as national laws.

The legislation will make it easier for foreign businesses in Hong Kong to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights under the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights of the UN. The legislation only targets four types of offences, clearly, these offences are not what law-abiding businesses and residents in Hong Kong would ever engage in. Law-abiding trans-national businesses all want to see a Hong Kong back to stability and order. The implementation of this Law will help them better fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights. What has happened since the return of Hong Kong proves that the freedoms of speech, of the press, of publication, of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration enjoyed by Hong Kong residents in accordance with the law have been fully protected. Peaceful and reasonable expression of demand is a basic requirement and an intrinsic part of a culturally advanced society based on the rule of law. Having said that, rights must be exercised within the framework of the rule of law, and no demand should be expressed by illegal means, let alone resorting to violence. The rule of law is the core value of Hong Kong and the cornerstone for its long-term stability and prosperity. Ensuring observance of laws and prosecution of lawbreakers is a manifestation of the spirit of the rule of law. Only by taking zero tolerance toward violence and rioters, can Hong Kong's law and order be protected and the rule of law upheld. Supporting and conniving at violence and rioters represents a flagrant infringement of democracy, freedom and the rule of law.

The legislation marks the continuation of One country, Two systems and Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy maintained. The NPC decision makes it clear, from the very beginning, that the State resolutely, fully and faithfully implements the policy of One Country, Two Systems under which Hong Kong people administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy. This commitment was reaffirmed in Article 1 of the legislation. The goal is to close the critical loophole in national security in Hong Kong, cement the foundation of One Country, and provide maximum safeguard for Hong Kong to harness the strengths of Two Systems on the basis of upholding One Country. The enacted legislation will not affect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents under the law. It will not affect the HKSAR's independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication. There will be no change to the policy of One Country, Two Systems, the capitalist system, the high degree of autonomy, or the legal system of the HKSAR.

The legislation will contribute to Hong Kong's prosperity and stability. Since the turbulence over proposed legislative amendments last June, the "Hong Kong independence" groups and violent terrorist acts have dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong's rule of law, economy and livelihood. The city's business environment and international image has also been severely damaged. The legislation is designed precisely to reverse that situation. It will help Hong Kong sustain a favorable business environment, consolidate and elevate its status as a financial, trade and shipping center, and bolster the confidence of foreign investors. After its adoption, the NPC decision received explicit support from many Hong Kong-based foreign-invested corporations, including HSBC, Standard Chartered, Swire and Jardines. They are all convinced that the legislation will contribute to the lasting stability of Hong Kong, and serve as the very foundation and prerequisite for all development.

(The writer is Consul General of China to Karachi)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

Li Bijian

The writer is Consul General of China in Karachi

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