This year marks the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to her motherland. On July 1, 1997, the Chinese government resumed exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong, and that opened a new era, featuring the principles of “one country, two systems”, “the people of Hong Kong administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy. Hong Kong has since embarked on a journey of unity and common development with the motherland. Since its return, with strong support from the motherland, Hong Kong withstood the impact of the Asian financial crisis, the SARS epidemic, the global financial crisis and the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and emerged stronger as an international financial, shipping and trading center. It has made great progress in the economy, rule of law, people’s livelihood and other various fields.
What has happened in Hong Kong fully demonstrates the concept of "one Country, two Systems", and it provides the best solution to the historical question of Hong Kong and the best institutional arrangement to ensure Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability after its return. “One country, two systems” has been supported and upheld by a great majority of the people of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong's destiny has always been closely tied with that of its motherland, and it has always been backed strongly by the Central Government of China. As an inseparable part of China, Hong Kong has the responsibility and obligation to protect national security. Once national security is ensured, Hong Kong can enjoy political stability, economic development and social harmony. The central government holds the primary and ultimate responsibility for national security.
The power to legislate on national security rests solely with the central government in countries around the world. Through Article 23 of the Basic Law, the Central Government grants the Hong Kong Special Administrative Regions (SAR) and Macao SAR certain legislative power on safeguarding national security, which is a special arrangement under “one country, two systems”. However, it does not change the fact that national security legislation is essentially within the purview of the Central Government. In fact, Macao SAR already passed a national security law in accordance with Article 23 of the Basic Law of the Macao SAR in 2009.
However, due to the sabotage and obstruction by those trying to sow trouble in Hong Kong and China at large, as well as external hostile forces, relevant laws are yet to materialize in Hong Kong. Thus, Hong Kong has long been in a “defenseless” status in the field of national security. This legal loophole has been exploited by some foreign politicians and anti-China forces with ulterior motives. They tried to use Hong Kong as a pawn to contain China and launch penetrative and subversive activities against the Chinese mainland. Therefore, Hong Kong has become a prominent risk for China’s national security. In particular, since the turbulence over the amendment bill in 2019, the “Hong Kong independence” and radical separatist forces have become further emboldened and escalated their violent terrorist activities. External forces have blatantly ramped up intervention in Hong Kong affairs, which seriously challenges the “one country, two systems” principle, and poses a real threat to the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests.
The turbulence over the amendment bill since last year has cost Hong Kong’s GDP which contracted for the first time in a decade and unemployment hit a record high in nearly 10 years. This seriously disturbed people’s normal life and damaged the vital interests of all people, including the Nepali citizens who are living and working in Hong Kong. The grave situation proves that if there is no national security, there will be no prosperity and stability in Hong Kong. At this critical time, the National People’s Congress (NPC) responded to the aspiration of people all over the country, including Hong Kong, to end violence and chaos and restore order, and entrusted its standing committee to make Hong Kong national security laws. After gathering opinions from various sectors in Hong Kong, the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong SAR was passed unanimously at the 20th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee and listed in Annex III to the Hong Kong SAR Basic Law on June 30. The Law was implemented the same day after the Hong Kong SAR government completed the procedure for promulgation in the gazette.
The law on safeguarding national security of Hong Kong perfectly combines upholding the “one country” prerequisite and respecting the differences between “two systems” and reaches a good balance between safeguarding the national security and protecting the right and freedom of the people of Hong Kong. For the tiny minority who endanger national security, this law will be a sword hanging over their heads. For the vast majority of Hong Kong residents, including the foreigners in Hong Kong, the law will be a “guardian” that protects their rights, freedoms and peaceful life. The legislation on safeguarding national security in Hong Kong is entirely China’s internal affairs that allows no foreign interference. A small number of western countries dragged the national security legislation in Hong Kong to the UN Human Rights Council session, their real intention was to interfere in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of human rights, which were opposed by more than 70 countries, including Nepal.
Just like President Xi Jinping said, “one country” is like the roots of a tree. For a tree to grow tall and luxuriant, its roots must run deep and strong. Only by consolidating the basis of "one country" can the benefits of "two systems” be fully leveraged. We believe that the law on safeguarding national security will ensure the successful implementation of “one country, two systems” and help Hong Kong maintain lasting prosperity and stability. The “Pearl of the Orient” temporarily covered with dust will shine with more brilliance in the future.
Yanqi is ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Nepal