On Monday, Macau proposed to form a national security commission to further uphold national security in the special administrative city. The commission will examine how Macau can enact its own Article 23 legislation. Like Hong Kong, that article concerns any acts against the central PROC government.
It came after the Executive Council, the Macau government’s top advisory body, finished discussing a draft by-law on the Commission on the Defence of National Security of the Macau Special Administrative Region.
The corresponding Basic Law Article in Hong Kong has not yet been enacted. The establishment of the national security commission in Macau might put Hong Kong under pressure to speed up its work regarding national security, especially at a time when a speech on the city’s independence on August 14 stirred up controversy.
Mr Au Kam-san, veteran legislator in Macau, believes the move is more of a “political statement” to please Beijing – and to set an example for Hong Kong. He claims the creation of the commission is unnecessary given there has not been any incidents that threaten national security in Macau.
What it does
The Macanese committee will help coordinate work in relation to safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and national development interests and make policies regarding national security, but it will not be the enforcement unit for the national security law.
It will also assess and advise on the situation in Macau regarding national security and social stability, advance the city’s legal system in relation to national security.
The commission will be chaired by Chief Executive, currently Mr Fernando Chui Sai-on, with the Secretary for Security as the vice chairman. Other members will include senior members from the justice unit, the police force, the legal affairs and chief executive’s offices.
“There’s a need to ensure more effective enforcement of the local Law on the Defence of National Security,” said Macau’s Executive Council spokesman Mr Leong Heng Teng.
The law took effect in 2009 based on the Article 23 of Macau’s Basic Law, its mini constitution. It lists seven crimes including treason, secession, sedition, subversion against the central government, theft of state secrets, acts against national security involving foreign political organisations, and establishing ties to these organization.
And the laggard
Even though the creation of national security commission in Macau will put Hong Kong under pressure to speed up work regarding national security, Mr Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macau Studies, said he does not see it coming soon.
“Hong Kong has not yet enacted the legislation of Article 23. Even if such commission was created, there would not be any corresponding law to address the acts against national security,” Mr Lau said.
“The Hong Kong society might think [the creation of the commission] would pave way to the legislation of Article 23. This is not what the government wants,” he says.
The legislation of Article 23 has been a Gordian knot for the government, which has not touched on the subject ever since the National Security Bill it proposed was met with massive demonstrations in 2003. Pro-democracy legislators have been opposing the legislation.
Mr Lau said it would take time to create “the right kind of political atmosphere or environment” to introduce the national security law.
His comment was in line with Ms Carrie Lam’s response to the question if the city will follow Macau to set up a similar agency. She said there are prerequisites.
“We need to enact the legislation of Article 23 first before we can do anything further,” said Ms Lam. She also noted that “some work is in progress now” and legislation of the article will begin when the time is ripe.
She said Hong Kong and Macau are in different situations as Macau has already legislated the national security law, and the establishment of the commission is to further enforce the national security measures.
Mr Ronny Tong, former legislator from the Civic Party, said the pressure on the government to pass Article 23 would only build up and would not ease
“But the question is not when but how to find the right conditions and the right balance,” Mr Tong said.
Mr Tsang Yok-sing, Convenor of local think tank Hong Kong Vision, might have an answer. He called for starting the public consultation on national security law immediately.
“Consultations on national security laws and political reform should take place at the same time,” he said, adding that this way, it should ease concerns for both the pan-democrats camp and the pro-government camp.
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