Transcript of the Q&A Session of Commissioner Xie Feng's Press Conference on the Hong Kong-related Agenda of the National People's Congress Session
2020/05/25
 

1. Television Broadcasts (TVB): Some Hong Kong people may worry there will be less freedom of speech in the future once the bill is passed. Let's say some Hong Kong people ask to stop one-party ruling and also ask the Chief Executive to step down. Will these kinds of slogans be banned in the future once the bill is passed? And also, if many people take to the streets to protest against this bill, will the Central Government rethink and withdraw the bill? Let's say more than 2 million people took to the streets last time. Thank you.

Commissioner Xie Feng: Such worries about the freedom of speech are unnecessary.

The legislation will target only acts of secession, subverting state power and organizing and carrying out terrorist activities, as well as interference in the HKSAR's internal affairs by foreign or external forces. It is the small minority of criminals jeopardizing national security that will be punished.

The Hong Kong citizens' rights and freedoms of speech, press, publication or assembly enshrined in the law will not be prejudiced by the legislation, but will only be better protected in a safe environment.

During the unrest following the proposed amendment bill last year, two TVB journalists were hit by petrol bombs thrown by rioters and got burned. Another cameraman was confronted by rioters, who yelled at him to give them the camera if he doesn't want to die. It was not until he was forced to hand out two memory cards that they let him go. Both examples show the freedom of speech has been compromised because the rioters are emboldened by the lack of national security legislation in Hong Kong.

At the same time, the freedom of speech, just like any other rights, has its limit and must be exercised within the bounds of the law. It is a right, and more importantly a responsibility. Media professionals should abide by the code of ethics, instead of abusing their freedoms, spreading disinformation, or even undermining national sovereignty and security under the pretext of the freedoms of the press and speech.

It must be emphasized that the majority of Hong Kong people are supporters of "One Country, Two Systems" and a prosperous, stable and peaceful Hong Kong. Except for a small handful of "Hong Kong independence" extremists and meddling external forces making furious accusations, I haven't heard about many people here opposing the legislation. Quite the contrary, the unrest following the proposed amendment bill has helped Hong Kong citizens see it clearer that without a harmonious and stable environment, they could not lead peaceful lives. And when the national security loopholes remain open, their personal safety, and even the basic rights to go to school and work or simply move around cannot be protected.

We have noticed that the Alliance 23, made up of LegCo members, the Politihk Social Strategic and the New Territories Concern Group, has launched a petition supporting legislating Article 23 of the Basic Law, which has collected over 2 million signatures. Also, the HKSAR Government, LegCo, pro-establishment lawmakers and the local communities have all expressed support for the NPC's deliberation of the decision. It speaks volumes about the majority of Hong Kong citizens' aspiration for safeguarding national security. Therefore, the legislation has won popular support, serves national interests, and must be done without the slightest delay.

 

2. Reuters: Commissioner Xie, there's been a great concern expressed over the possible stationing and setting up of agencies in Hong Kong of China's security arm. Could you give us some details of that? Will they have enforcement powers and what scale are we looking at?

Commissioner Xie: As Vice Chairman Wang Chen of the NPC Standing Committee explained on May 22nd at the third session of the 13th NPC, the draft decision will be deliberated and put to a vote on May 28th according to the schedule. After the draft decision is passed, the NPC Standing Committee will enact the legislation as entrusted by the NPC decision in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, and in the light of the specific conditions in the HKSAR. I encourage you to stay tuned.

 

3. Consul-General of Cambodia to Hong Kong: Thank you, Excellency, for you comprehensive briefing. Cambodia consistently adheres to "One China" policy and considers affairs of the HKSAR as internal affairs of China. Cambodia wishes to see HKSAR continue to enjoy prosperity in peace, stability and harmony, free from foreign interference. Excellency, I have one question for you: some reporters say China did not do well to combat COVID-19, so when China is making this legislation for the HKSAR, it is to make people look away from what China has failed in combating the pandemic and to consolidate its power. Is it true?  

Commissioner Xie: Well, such reports are very imaginative, but unfortunately groundless also.

Some people in the world just keep picking on China. One minute they blame China for using its effective COVID-19 response to boast about its system and boost international standing, and the next they criticize China for being inept and trying to consolidate power by advancing domestic agenda such as the national security legislation. Their logic is that no matter what China has done, it must be wrong and out of conspiracy. It reminds me of a saying in Chinese: "One can always trump up a charge if they are out to condemn someone." Such mud-slinging shows no regard for the facts and is a blatant stigmatization of China. I trust the international community will tell right from wrong and not be misled.  

 

4. Consul-General of Egypt to Hong Kong: Thank you very much, Mr. Xie, for your elaborate briefing. Actually within the framework of "One Country, Two Systems", we understand that China would like to enhance its national security. But the question is why in this particular moment? What triggered this issue to be raised in this particular moment amid what is going on in the world now?  

Commissioner Xie: The fact is, national security legislation in Hong Kong is something the Central Government has all along attached importance to and supported in accordance with the Constitution of the PRC and the Basic Law of the HKSAR. But because of the obstruction by anti-China troublemakers in the city and external hostile forces, the legislation required by Article 23 of the Basic Law is yet to materialize 23 years after Hong Kong's return. The unrest following the proposed amendment bill has thrust Hong Kong into the gravest situation since its return, and has further highlighted the national security loopholes in the city.

Therefore, it is of greatest urgency to establish and improve at the state level the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the HKSAR to safeguard national security. It is against such a backdrop that the third session of the 13th NPC has started deliberating national security legislation for Hong Kong.

 

5. Secretary-General at the Hong Kong Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry: Commissioner Xie, thank you very much. This is not a question, but a hope. Many of Japanese business people have come here to do business, not only for their own business profit but also for prosperity of Hong Kong. We are enjoying this freedom and free business. So I hope if the details of the new law come out in the future, please explain more precisely, because now due to mass media information many business people are concerned that Hong Kong is becoming "One Country, One System". So we would appreciate more details and further explanation in the future to give us kind of assurance on "One Country, Two Systems".

Commissioner Xie: Only when national security is safeguarded can society enjoy peace and order, and the foundation for Hong Kong's prosperity and stability be solid. Otherwise, if Hong Kong remains unguarded, full of national security loopholes, and plagued by social unrest, investors will surely be rattled.

During the disturbance following the proposed amendment bill, "Hong Kong independence" advocates and local radical separatists kept ramping up violence and unscrupulously applied the "burn with us" tactic. They colluded with foreign forces to meddle with Hong Kong affairs and acted as willing pawns of the latter, in a bid to topple the HKSAR Government and turn the city into a frontier for secession, subversion, infiltration and sabotage activities against the mainland. As a result, not only national security is at peril, but also Hong Kong has been plunged into the gravest situation since its return. For instance, the city has lost the title of the world's freest economy it had held for 25 years. Its GDP registered negative growth for the first time in a decade, and the unemployment rate hit a record high in nearly 10 years. When Hong Kong people cannot do business as usual or lead normal lives, the international business community will also suffer.

The national security legislation for Hong Kong is exactly for the purpose of setting things right, plugging the lethal loopholes in national security, and stopping the chaos and rampant violence in Hong Kong. It is to create for international businesses a more peaceful and tranquil social environment, a more sound legal environment, and a more stable and predictable business environment. Only in this way can Hong Kong strengthen its status as an international financial, trading and shipping center, and can Chinese and foreign businesses here have a more profitable future.

National security legislation for Hong Kong will not change the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, but will only ensure its full and faithful implementation. Our friends from the business community can rest assured about this.

I'd also like to emphasize that China always opposes any country's attempt to impose sanctions on or threaten with sanctions other countries based on its domestic law, opposes any act trampling principles of international law and basic norms governing international relations, and opposes power politics and hegemony.

It is reported that the Hon Joseph Yam, former Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, said that enacting national security legislation for Hong Kong will bolster the city's status as an international financial center. The anti-government protest and violence since June 2019 have recently morphed into terrorism and separatist activities. If this isn't stopped, he warned, Hong Kong would never have another day of peace, undermining its status as a finance hub. Enacting national security laws, he said, would restore stability to society, and international financial activities could then continue in Hong Kong without any further worries. Mr. Yam opposed in particular "weaponizing" finance to hurt the interests of Hong Kong and other regions and countries.

 

6. President of the Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Hong Kong): In view of the trade talk's breakup, the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the local civil unrest, this is a more or less surprising amendment of national security. Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the international community there is nothing to worry about, when all the other indicators give us every reason to worry. If you please reassure us why we should not be worried?

Commissioner Xie: First, the legislation will target only acts of secession, subverting state power and organizing and carrying out terrorist activities, as well as interference in the HKSAR's internal affairs by foreign or external forces. It is the small minority of criminals jeopardizing national security that will be punished, while the overwhelming majority of law-abiding Hong Kong citizens will be protected. Any work or law enforcement efforts to safeguard national security will be conducted strictly in accordance with legal provisions, mandates and procedures, without prejudice to legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong citizens, legal persons and other organizations. So the law-abiding citizens have nothing to worry about.

Second, the legislation for Hong Kong will not change the "One Country, Two Systems" policy. It will not change the capitalist system or the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong. It will not change the legal system in the HKSAR. Nor will it affect the independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, exercised by the judiciary in Hong Kong. We will remain committed to policies of "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" with a high degree of autonomy and law-based governance of Hong Kong, as we always do. Therefore, some concerns in Hong Kong and the international community are unfounded and unnecessary.

Third, safeguarding national security is the common will of the majority of citizens who care for Hong Kong, and is in line with the trend of the times. As I mentioned earlier, the petition launched by Alliance 23 supporting legislating Article 23 of the Basic Law has collected over 2 million signatures. It speaks volumes about the majority of Hong Kong citizens' shared aspiration for stability, development and the rule of law. Therefore, national security legislation for Hong Kong is in the interests of the country and the city, and has won popular support.

Fourth, the HKSAR Government, LegCo, pro-establishment lawmakers and the local communities have all expressed support for the NPC's deliberation of the decision. Chief Executive Carrie Lam stated that the HKSAR Government supports the decision, and will fully cooperate with the NPC Standing Committee to complete the legislation as soon as possible to discharge its responsibility of safeguarding national security. LegCo President Andrew Leung said that the NPC's decision to exercise its power enshrined in the Constitution to establish the relevant legal system serves the overall interests of the nation and Hong Kong society, and that he respects, understands and supports the decision.

Fifth, enacting national security legislation is ultimately an exercise of a nation's sacrosanct sovereignty and is within its domestic affairs. Most members of the international community agree on this point, and understand and respect China's just and legitimate efforts to safeguard national security. People can tell right from wrong. A small minority of external forces are sowing panic, obstructing the legislation and provoking confrontation out of ulterior agenda. But such attempts are against the will of Hong Kong people and the just forces in the international community upholding principles of international law and norms governing international relations, and are doomed to fail.

 

7. Head of the European Union Office to Hong Kong: Thank you very much for your time. As you know, the European Union made a statement on Friday. It was made by the High Representative on behalf of the 27 member states. That's quite rare that we made this kind of statements. We don't question the legitimacy of having the national security law for Hong Kong. It is enshrined in Article 23 of the Basic Law. But we are concerned about how this legislation is being decided, and also its impact, including on "One Country, Two Systems". You know that the European Union is a strong supporter of "One Country, Two Systems". You will not find a stronger supporter than us. We feel as stakeholders in Hong Kong's success. It has also been beneficial for the mainland. The European Union loves Hong Kong. We think that the attractiveness of Hong Kong as an international city is very much underpinned by the presence of our businesses, our journalists, academics, researchers, think tanks, NGOs, all talented Europeans, and many of them are here today. I thank you on behalf of my colleagues of the European Union for your reassurances that you have given us today. But you also have to understand that the political signal that we've received from the NPC decision is a source of uncertainty, because it seems that it excludes democratic debate or any debate in the Hong Kong institutions. So I'd like to know to what extent the Hong Kong government or the Hong Kong institutions are involved in the drafting of the legislation? Also what is the timeline that you foresee for this? Will this legislation be retrospective? And how could the question about the mainland law enforcement offices in Hong Kong, as has also been asked, impact rule of law in Hong Kong, which is by far the key of the Hong Kong system? Thank you very much.

Commissioner Xie: Thank you for your long question, and for reaffirming your support on behalf of the EU for "One Country, Two Systems" and also reaffirming yourselves as stakeholders in Hong Kong's stability and prosperity.

We hold European friends as partners in boosting Chinese-European cooperation, as well as partners in our common efforts to make Hong Kong a more prosperous and stable homeland for all of us.

We are looking forward to more fruitful cooperation between China, including Hong Kong, with EU as evidenced by our very effective consultation and cooperation in controlling the pandemic in the past three or four months.

Now going back to your questions. As Vice Chairman Wang Chen explained on May 22nd, based on a comprehensive analysis about various considerations, and after communicating with relevant parties, the Central Government and the relevant authorities have proposed a two-step approach, that is to pass a decision first and then enact the legislation. The NPC's arrangement, including entrusting its Standing Committee to enact the legislation, is an implementation of the provisions of the Constitution and the Basic Law. As Article 18 of the Basic Law stipulates, the NPC Standing Committee may add to or delete from the list of laws in Annex III after consulting its Committee for the Basic Law of the HKSAR and the government of the Region. Consultation is already well under way between the Central Government and the HKSAR Government. The HKSAR Government including Chief Executive Carrie Lam, LegCo, pro-establishment lawmakers and the local communities have all expressed immediate support for the NPC's deliberation of the decision.

Therefore, the international community, including our friends from the EU, need not worry, and should not be misled by the noises. National security legislation for Hong Kong will be conducted in accordance with the Constitution and the Basic Law, and the relevant work and law enforcement efforts will be strictly in line with legal provisions, mandates and procedures, without prejudice to legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong citizens, legal persons and other organizations.

As for the details and enforcement mechanisms, we have no further information, and we recommend you keep following the ongoing deliberation and the ensuing legislative process. I believe the ultimate legislation will serve China's national security interests, Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, and common interests of the international community. I have every confidence that the EU exchanges and cooperation with Hong Kong and China as a whole will yield more fruits.

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