Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has credited the national security law imposed by China last year for ushering in what she called a “new era” in governance for the territory, already as critics condemn legislation that has led to the disqualification of pro-democracy politicians from office, dozens of arrests and the departure of thousands of Hong Kong people into exile.
In her final policy speech as the territory’s leader, Lam said on Wednesday that thanks to the security law, the legislature was no longer “disrupted and paralysed by members who were anti-China and already causing chaos in Hong Kong.
“This is a clear manifestation the [Hong Kong] has got back on the right track of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and that governance has returned to normal,” she said.
She additional that there was nevertheless work to do to protect the national security of the city and to ensure “greater loyalty” among its residents towards the central government in Beijing.
Lam has before called those who opposed the national security law “the enemy of the people”.
She says the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) needs to enact separate local legislation to address issues and clearly define acts of treason, secession and subversion in Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
The government also has to tackle the issue of film censorship, supervising schools, the media and the internet in addition as the strengthening of education.
Lam said the goal is “to prevent those who are opposed to China and attempt to destabilise Hong Kong from taking advantage of the situation to mislead the public with ill intentions.”
“I must express my gratitude to the central government for its staunch and unfailing sustain” for Hong Kong’s government, she additional.
Beijing imposed the national security law in June last year after enormous pro-democracy protests swept the Chinese-controlled territory in 2019.
The law punishes actions that China deems as secession, subversion, collusion or “terrorism” with terms that could stretch up to a life sentence.
Since the law was imposed on the city, dozens of activists and pro-democracy movement leaders have been detained and charged, while a few have been convicted and are serving prison time.
Observers say the law has radically reshaped the city’s political, cultural and legal scenery with Amnesty International in June saying the legislation had “decimated” Hong Kong’s freedoms and was turning the territory into a police state.
Lam also addressed the city’s delayed elections for LegCo, which are now scheduled for December, in addition as the selection of a new chief executive next year, saying the central government will help ensure the surveys “are conducted in a fair, open and honest manner in accordance with the law”.
She said that Beijing is “actively examining proposals” that would allow “Hong Kong electors in the mainland” to also cast their ballot in the surveys.
The LegCo elections were supposed to take place in September 2020, but were postponed with the government citing the coronavirus pandemic.
Critics said officials wanted to avoid the pro-democracy camp increasing its strength in the legislature after they won the November 2019 district council elections in a landslide. A day before the poll was postponed, 12 opposition candidates were disqualified from the election.
This year, China announced new rules for Hong Kong’s electoral system to ensure only “patriots” keep up office.
While half the seats in the legislature were before chosen in direct elections under the new rules only about a fifth will be directly elected.
An Election Committee will appoint 40 of the city’s 90 legislators and 30 others will be chosen by special interest groups.
All candidates will be vetted before they can already stand.
Meanwhile, Lam said that Beijing nevertheless has no timetable in implementing an anti-sanctions law in the city, amid concerns over the effect it could have on businesses.
The vote, which was originally scheduled in August, has been postponed amid geopolitical tensions between China and the United States over issues including Hong Kong, trade and Taiwan.
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