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Restoring Order in Hong Kong

Jul 14, 2020
  • Hui Xiao

    A retired economist in Hong Kong

The National Security Law for Hong Kong, recently enacted by the Chinese National People’s Congress Standing Committee, is absolutely necessary to quelling the violent protests and restoring law and order, which in turn will allow the Hong Kong economy to return to some semblance of normalcy and stability.

Since 1997, when Hong Kong was returned to China, it has been the responsibility of lawmakers in the special administrative region to take action on their own under Article 23 — which deals with national security. 

(Macau enacted its own National Security Law in 2009, but no one has been prosecuted under it thus far.) 

Unfortunately, Hong Kong failed to deliver during the past 23 years, and it does not appear that it will be able to do so in the near future. The central government was left with no choice but to step in to do the job.

The offenses covered by the new law include secession, subversion, terrorist activities and collusion with a foreign country or external elements that endanger national security.  Every other country, large and small — Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, the United Kingdom and  the United State — has national security laws that criminalize these offenses.

On secession, the U.S. fought a civil war over the issue in the 19th century. More recently, Spain would not allow Catalonia to secede. There is also not a single country that will tolerate subversion in its territory. Terrorist activities are prohibited and prosecuted everywhere.

When Hong Kong was a British colony, the national security laws of the UK applied; thus the Irish Republican Army was not allowed by the British colonial government to operate in Hong Kong, not even peacefully.

The manufacture and use by violent protesters of gasoline bombs, which were repeatedly found en masse in Hong Kong, clearly constitutes terrorist activity. Colluding with external elements to endanger national security is now routinely used by the U.S. against Chinese-American professionals and scholars.  National security was also the excuse recently used by the U.S. to impose tariffs on Chinese imports and to restrict technology exports to China. U.S. national security laws apply to Guam and Puerto Rico and of course to all the tribal lands of the Native Americans in full force.

By the same token, China, as an independent sovereign country, has every right to enact a national security law for Hong Kong, its sovereign territory, especially since the region had 23 years to do so on its own but failed.

Without the enactment and implementation of the National Security Law in Hong Kong, the violent protests, which started in June 2019, would continue unabated. Unfortunately, the Western media report on these protests only selectively.  They do not show the violence of the protestors — the arson, the bullying of ordinary citizens, the gasoline bombings and the wanton destruction of both public and private property. 

As a result, the outside world does not know what an average Hong Kong resident has been living through since June 2019.  Unless the violence is stopped, businesses will not invest, households will consume only minimally, and tourists will not return.

Moreover, many businesses, with their revenues and incomes already severely affected by last year’s social unrest, as well as by the COVID-19 virus since early this year, and now possibly by another round of social unrest, are expected to throw in the towel and close down because they cannot see any future.

If the lawless violence is not stopped, we will see more business closures and bankruptcies. This is not something that the Hong Kong SAR government can change by simply handing out more cash.

Hong Kong businesses, both large and small, will welcome the National Security Law out of their own self-interest. It is their only chance to survive economically and to recover. The law is absolutely necessary to restore normalcy and stability in Hong Kong, without which its economy will be doomed. 

However, whether all of the businesses will come out and openly support the national security law is another matter altogether. Some may fear retribution from either foreign governments with their own motives or local violent protesters.

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