The most senior Chinese official in Hong Kong, chief of the Liaison Office Luo Huining, said Wednesday that the city should introduce new national security legislation “as soon as possible” in reaction to protests last year that undermined mainland China’s influence in the region.
These remarks came during a speech for China’s National Security Education Day. Luo took office in January of this year amid ongoing protests against the Chinese government’s attempts to further their influence in Hong Kong. His remarks on Wednesday mark a sharp departure from his previous history as a generally more temperate supporter of the mainland.
Luo stated that national security in Hong Kong was an obvious shortcoming for the region, which has allowed many foreign influences to shape its development. He also said that “If the ant-hill eroding the rule of law is not cleared, the dam of national security will be destroyed and the wellbeing of all Hong Kong residents will be damaged,” and that “There’s a need to put effort into maintaining the national security legal system and enforcement system as soon as possible.”
His comments remind many of the Chinese government’s previous attempts to develop a national security law in Hong Kong. That law, known as Article 23, was met with mass protests in 2003 and subsequently abandoned by the mainland. It attempted to have Hong Kong “enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the Central People’s Government, or theft of state secrets, to prohibit foreign political organizations or bodies from conducting political activities in the Region, and to prohibit political organizations or bodies of the Region from establishing ties with foreign political organizations.”
A new attempt to extend Chinese censorship by instituting a similar law in Hong Kong would likely be met with similar if not harsher opposition than its predecessor. However, given the current social distancing practices established by the Chinese government, it is virtually impossible to protest, and many fear that this may allow the mainland to pass more oppressive legislation in Hong Kong without sufficient resistance by it’s more liberal populace.