Hong Kong’s leader, John Lee, announced on Wednesday the city’s plans to enact its own national security law in 2024. This comes four years after Beijing introduced sweeping legislation in response to mass pro-democracy protests that gripped the financial hub in 2019, designed to quell dissent.
Beijing’s 2020 national security law targeted four major offenses, including secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, carrying sentences of up to life imprisonment. During his second policy address, Lee, who formerly served as the security chief, expressed concerns about external influences undermining the “one country, two systems” principle in Hong Kong.
Lee stressed that external forces continued to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs and underlined the city’s commitment to safeguarding national security while enhancing its legal framework and enforcement mechanisms. He stated, “The government is pressing ahead to draw up effective legislative options and will complete the legislative exercise in 2024 to fulfill our constitutional duty.”
According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the city is obligated to establish its laws to combat seven security-related crimes, including treason and espionage. This task, labeled a “constitutional responsibility” by the city’s government, has remained unfulfilled for over 25 years since Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. Previous attempts in 2003 were halted due to widespread protests.
As of the end of September, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau reported that 280 people had been arrested, with 30 convictions under the existing national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020. This law has effectively suppressed political dissent, leading activists to either be apprehended or seek refuge abroad, impacting various aspects of life in the city, from arts and literature to children’s education.
Lee also revealed plans to introduce patriotic education to foster a sense of national identity, emphasizing the importance of national unity and solidarity. A working group will be formed to advance national education, aligning with the Patriotic Education Law of the People’s Republic of China.
This announcement coincided with Beijing’s passage of a law aimed at strengthening patriotic education for children and families, according to China’s state media. The move underscores the ongoing efforts by authorities in both Hong Kong and mainland China to assert control over the city’s education and national security, amid continued tensions and external influences.