Government responses to farewell statement by US Consul General to Hong Kong
In response to media enquiries about the farewell statement by the US Consul General to Hong Kong, Mr Hanscom Smith, a Government spokesman said today (July 12) that comments regarding the National Security Law covered in the speech concerned are unfair criticisms no further from the truth.
The spokesman pointed out that Article 4 of the Hong Kong National Security Law 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 which HKSAR residents enjoy under the Basic Law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights as applied to Hong Kong, including the freedom of assembly, procession and demonstration, shall be protected in accordance with the law. However, many rights and freedoms recognised in the ICCPR are not absolute, and may be restricted for reasons of national security and/or public order (ordre public), etc. This applies to all countries or places including Hong Kong.
The National Security Law has clearly stipulated four categories of offences that endanger national security. Such offences are clearly defined and are similar to those in the national security laws of other jurisdictions.
Any law enforcement actions taken by Hong Kong law enforcement agencies are based on evidence, strictly according to the law, for the acts of the persons or entities concerned, and have nothing to do with their background. Prosecutions would only commence if there is sufficient admissible evidence to support a reasonable prospect of conviction and if it is in the public interest to do so. A defendant may only be convicted by the court if the court is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant has the relevant actus reus and mens rea of the offence.
The spokesman said, “Hong Kong is an international city having close contact and communication with other countries, regions and relevant international organisations. What the Hong Kong National Security Law seeks to prevent, suppress and punish are distinctly different from normal interactions. Law-abiding people will not unwittingly violate the law.”
“It is a clear fact that the NSL has stopped chaos and restored order in Hong Kong, ensuring the smooth and continuous implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. We will continue to guard against any acts endangering national security, and will bring any person or entity violating the law to justice regardless of background.”
The spokesman also stressed that the remarks by the US Consul General on the Chief Executive Election held after the HKSAR’s electoral system had been improved were made arbitrarily, oblivious of the fact that democracy has taken a quantum leap forward in the HKSAR since its return to the motherland in July 1997. The improved electoral system in the HKSAR has expanded the Election Committee (EC), which is responsible for electing the Chief Executive and a major portion of legislators, from 1 200 to 1 500 members and the Legislative Council (LegCo) from 70 seats to 90. The two bodies have become more representative of Hong Kong society, allowing broader public participation in political processes.
Moreover, the improved electoral system has also boosted the representativeness of the LegCo by optimising the composition of its members. Legislators are now returned by the EC, the functional groups in the functional constituencies and direct elections in the geographical constituencies. This allows all social sectors to be represented in a fair and balanced manner. At the same time, the EC’s composition is also enriched with the addition of representatives of the small and medium-sized enterprises and grassroots organisations, extending the representative reach of the EC over the whole society while ensuring the fairness of public participation in the sociopolitical decision-making process.
The spokesman said, “After the electoral system was improved, the sixth-term Chief Executive Election was successfully held on May 8, 2022, in strict accordance with the election laws of the HKSAR in an open, fair and honest manner. The election carried an important meaning to Hong Kong for implementing ‘patriots administering Hong Kong’. The eligibility of candidates for the office of the Chief Executive is determined by a statutory Candidate Eligibility Review Committee. The objective is to ensure that the candidates comply with the requirement in Article 104 of the Basic Law that they would uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to the HKSAR of the People’s Republic of China. Such an institutional mechanism puts in place legal safeguards to ensure full application of ‘patriots administering Hong Kong’. Keeping political power in the hands of patriots is a political rule commonly practised in the world. No one in any country or region in the world will ever allow political power to fall into the hands of forces or individuals who do not love, or even sell out or betray, their own country.”
“The development of democracy in the HKSAR must be consistent with its constitutional order under the Constitution and the Basic Law and the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, as well as with the political, economic, social, cultural and historical circumstances of the HKSAR. Improving the electoral system, ensuring ‘patriots administering Hong Kong’ and safeguarding the overall interests of society are conducive to the stable development of Hong Kong’s democracy.”