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Opening Remarks by Commissioner Xie Feng at the Press Conference on the Hong Kong-related Agenda of the National People's Congress Session

(From the Office of the Commissioner of MFA in Hong Kong SAR)

2020/05/25

(25 May 2020, Hong Kong)

Dear friends from the consular corps, chambers of commerce, international organizations and the press,

Good afternoon.

Thank you for joining us at the Commissioner's Office. At the press conference today, I'd like to brief you on and answer any questions you may have about the deliberation of the "draft decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR to safeguard national security" at the third session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), so as to help you better understand it.

In short, here are five key messages: First, national security legislation for Hong Kong is right and proper and of greatest urgency. Second, it is just and legitimate for the Central Government to safeguard national security, which is both within its power and its obligation. Third, national security legislation will ensure the enduring success of "One Country, Two Systems". Fourth, the international community can rest assured about the legislation for Hong Kong. And fifth, the Chinese government is rock-firm in upholding national sovereignty, security and development interests. Now let me explain.

First, national security legislation for Hong Kong is right and proper and of greatest urgency.

National security is the very foundation for a country to survive and thrive, and enacting national security legislation is an exercise of a nation's sacrosanct sovereignty. All countries, be they unitary or federal, of common or Continental law systems, have national security laws or specific provisions to prevent, prohibit and punish illegal acts that endanger national security.

No country will ever turn a blind eye to illegal acts that may jeopardize its national security. This is a consensus of the international community, which allows no double standards or hegemonic logic. It is simply unfair for any country to stigmatize and demonize others' efforts to plug national security loopholes, while it considers its own national security measures at home as completely justified and even cites "national security" as a pretext against others. In other words, national security should not be a privilege for only a few, or exploited as an excuse.

It has been 30 years since the promulgation of the Basic Law of the HKSAR and 23 years since Hong Kong's return. But because of the obstruction by the forces trying to sow trouble in Hong Kong and China as a whole, the legislation required by Article 23 of the Basic Law is yet to materialize. Moreover, existing legal provisions in Hong Kong related to national security have long lain dormant. As a consequence, severe deficiencies abound in the institutional building, enforcement capacity and power allocation in the HKSAR for safeguarding national security, and Hong Kong remains an "unguarded" city, highly unusual in the world.

During the unrest following the proposed amendment bill last year, organizations advocating "Hong Kong independence" and other radical separatists openly called for gaining independence from the country, stormed the Central Government's institutions in the HKSAR, paralyzed the HKSAR Government's governance and the LegCo, and committed violent crimes, some of which were terrorist in nature. To make things worse, some external forces meddled with Hong Kong affairs and carried out in the city activities jeopardizing China's national security. All these have severely challenged the red line of "One Country, Two Systems", undermined the political and public security in Hong Kong, and threatened China's national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. They have posed a major and imminent danger to China's national security.

Hong Kong is part of China. It would be unacceptable if the city could never fulfill its constitutional obligation to safeguard national security, if it remained unguarded and full of loopholes, and if it was turned into an independent or semi-independent political entity and even a frontier for secession, subversion, infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland. The troublemakers in Hong Kong cannot be allowed to collude with foreign anti-China forces to impose sanctions on the city and confront China. The "Hong Kong independence" separatists cannot be left unchecked, and the extremists cannot have a free pass to commit violent terrorist acts.

Second, it is just and legitimate for the Central Government to safeguard national security, which is both within its power and its obligation.

The Central Government holds the primary responsibility for upholding the constitutional order in the HKSAR, and ensuring full and faithful implementation of "One Country, Two Systems" and the Basic Law. When national security is at peril and the HKSAR Government has difficulty enacting relevant laws on its own because of the forces inciting chaos in Hong Kong and China at large, the Central Government has to act decisively, and enact at the state level national security legislation for Hong Kong.

Legislation on national security falls within a state's legislative power. While the Central Government authorizes the HKSAR to enact laws on its own to safeguard national security through Article 23 of the Basic Law, it does not change the fact that national security legislation is essentially within the purview of the Central Authorities, nor does it mean the Central Authorities have forfeited the power to uphold national security.

As Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China stipulates, "The state may establish special administrative regions when necessary. The systems to be instituted in special administrative regions shall be prescribed by law enacted by the National People's Congress in the light of specific conditions." As the supreme organ of state power, the NPC has the power and the obligation to fulfill its constitutional duty to safeguard national security in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law and in line with the reality and needs in the HKSAR, in ways including enacting national security legislation concerning the HKSAR, and establishing the relevant legal system and enforcement mechanisms. Therefore, the NPC's decision to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR to safeguard national security has solid legal grounds and the highest legal effect.

Third, national security legislation will ensure the enduring success of "One Country, Two Systems".

The original aspiration and mission of "One Country, Two Systems" is to uphold national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, and to maintain long-term prosperity and stability in Hong Kong. "One Country" is the prerequisite for and foundation of "Two Systems", while "Two Systems" are subordinate to and derive from "One Country". Should the "One Country" principle be undermined, "Two Systems" would be out of the question.

The NPC's decision is intended to set things right, plug the lethal loopholes in national security in Hong Kong, and reinforce the "One Country" foundation. It is to eradicate all potential obstacles, traps and threats impeding Hong Kong's development, ensure Hong Kong to fully leverage the benefits of "Two Systems" while adhering to the "One Country" basis, and uphold Hong Kong citizens' fundamental interests and extensive rights and freedoms enshrined in the law to the greatest extent possible.

Only when national security is safeguarded can "One Country, Two Systems" be fully, faithfully and smoothly implemented, can Hong Kong citizens have a sense of security, certainty and happiness, can Hong Kong enjoy greater stability and prosperity, and can the interests of all stakeholders, the international community included, be better protected.

Fourth, the international community can rest assured about the legislation for Hong Kong.

The Central Government is committed to two principles in implementing "One Country, Two Systems": First, to ensure the policy will remain unchanged; second, to ensure it will not be bent or distorted.

National security legislation for Hong Kong will not change the "One Country, Two Systems" policy. It will not change the capitalist system or the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong. It will not change the legal system in the HKSAR. Nor will it affect the independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, exercised by the judiciary in Hong Kong.

The NPC's legislative decision targets only acts of secession, subverting state power and organizing and carrying out terrorist activities, as well as interference in the HKSAR's internal affairs by external forces. It is the small minority of criminals jeopardizing national security that will be punished, while the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Hong Kong citizens will be protected. Any work or law enforcement efforts to safeguard national security will be conducted strictly in accordance with legal provisions, mandates and procedures, without prejudice to legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong citizens, legal persons and other organizations.

The legislation will not affect the rights and freedoms Hong Kong citizens enjoy under the law, such as the freedoms of speech, press, publication and assembly, but will only better guarantee them in a safe environment. It will not hinder the performance of duty by foreign consular corps, chambers of commerce and media in the city, but will further improve the climate for exchanges and cooperation between Hong Kong and foreign countries, and protect the law-based operation of international businesses here. The legislation will alleviate the grave concern among local and foreign business communities about the violent and terrorist forces attempting to mess up Hong Kong with the "burn with us" tactic, and will create a more law-based, reliable and stable business environment for foreign investors.

Therefore, here is our message to the majority of law-abiding citizens and foreign nationals who love Hong Kong: there is absolutely no need to panic, or worry that you may be unfavorably impacted; do not be intimidated or even misled and exploited by those with ulterior motives; and in particular, do not be a rumor-monger yourself, or join the anti-China forces in stigmatizing and demonizing the legislation, still less meddle with or obstruct it.

Fifth, the Chinese government is rock-firm in upholding national sovereignty, security and development interests. in implementing the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, and in opposing any external interference in Hong Kong affairs.

The countries and organizations you represent here are all beneficiaries of "One Country, Two Systems" and stakeholders in a prosperous and stable Hong Kong. Enduring success of the policy and Hong Kong serves the common interests of us all.

It is our hope that you will see the truth and come to your own conclusion on Hong Kong issues. We count on you to respect the facts and the law, view the NPC's decision in a calm, objective and impartial manner, understand, respect and support China's legitimate efforts to safeguard national security in Hong Kong, and avoid any misinterpretation or misjudgment.

We encourage all stakeholders to do what is best for Hong Kong's prosperity and stability and their own interests here rather than the other way around, stand with the majority of Hong Kong citizens who aspire for stability, growth and the rule of law, and stay away from the separatists, violent terrorists and meddling external forces. Together, let us protect Hong Kong, our common home, and make it a better place.

We call on the international community to abide by principles of international law and norms governing international relations, including mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and non-interference, fully and accurately understand and earnestly support "One Country, Two Systems". We call on its members to avoid hampering China's endeavor to safeguard national security, and refrain from meddling with Hong Kong affairs, which are China's internal affairs, in any possible way.

Thank you. Now I'm happy to take your questions.

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