Beijing slams Western nations for ‘smears and attacks’ against Hong Kong’s domestic national security law

Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have slammed Western nations, especially Britain, for their vocal opposition to the newly passed domestic national security law and the central government warned critics that attempts to undermine the legislation were “doomed to fail”.

The war of words erupted just hours after the “patriots-only” Hong Kong legislature unanimously passed the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, mandated under Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, but which had been shelved for more than two decades after massive public opposition.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs voiced its strong disapproval on Wednesday over the “smears and attacks” from Western nations, expressing its firm opposition to any external interference in Hong Kong matters.

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“Chinese authorities strongly disapprove of and firmly reject the smearing by certain countries and organisations against the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance,” ministry spokesman Lin Jian said.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has attacked the city’s just-passed domestic national security legislation. Photo: Reuters

He said the law had drawn from similar legislation overseas and was beneficial to the city’s development and security, enabling Hong Kong to leverage its unique status and strengthen its cooperation with various regions.

“Any attacks and smears against the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance will never succeed, and are doomed to fail,” he added.

The commissioner’s office of China’s foreign ministry in Hong Kong also condemned British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and the Council of the European Union, which both hit out at the law straight after it was voted onto the statute books.

A spokesman for the office said Britain had “no sovereignty, governance or supervision” over Hong Kong after its return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, and was not qualified to make such remarks on the city’s affairs.

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“Britain continues to stir up trouble and make arbitrary comments on Hong Kong’s situation, blatantly trampling on international law and basic norms governing international relations, which is out of its deep-rooted colonial mentality and teacher-like behaviour,” the spokesman said.

“China urges Britain to correct its position, face reality, give up the illusion of continuing its colonial influence in Hong Kong, and stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs and China’s internal affairs in any way.”

Beijing’s foreign affairs arm in the city also said the United Kingdom had at least 14 laws to safeguard national security, and a new one introduced last year had many vaguely defined provisions and broad authorisation for law enforcement agencies.

Foreign Secretary Cameron on Tuesday warned of the law’s “far-reaching implications”.

“The law fails to provide certainty for international organisations, including diplomatic missions, who are operating there,” he said.

“It will entrench the culture of self-censorship which now dominates Hong Kong’s social and political landscape, and enable the continuing erosion of freedoms of speech, of assembly and of the media,” he said.

Hong Kong security chief Chris Tang Ping-keung on Wednesday denied the legislation’s passage was rushed and maintained it had been properly scrutinised by lawmakers.

The essence of the Sino-British Joint Declaration was the restoration of Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong and was not a pretext for the UK to meddle in the city’s affairs, he said.

Trade bodies in Hong Kong say emphasis should now move from security to economy

“The UK should immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs,” Tang warned.

Joining the chorus of condemnation on Wednesday, Hong Kong’s No 2 official, Eric Chan Kwok-ki, said the attacks were aimed at undermining peace and order in the city.

“It is obvious that they made the remarks hoping that Hong Kong would not have a national security law ... so that they would have the opportunity to destroy Hong Kong’s tranquillity,” he said.

Eighty-nine lawmakers unanimously passed the legislation on Tuesday night at the end of a marathon session.

The new ordinance covers 39 offences divided into five categories: treason; insurrection, incitement to mutiny and disaffection, and acts with seditious intention; sabotage; external interference; and theft of state secrets and espionage.

City leader John Lee Ka-chiu announced the law would take effect on Saturday.

Lawmakers and government officials pose in Legco after a marathon session to pass the Article 23 legislation. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Authorities will proofread the approved amendments and arrange for a copy of the legislation to be signed by Lee, before it is sent to Beijing and published in the gazette.

A government insider said the process was being fast-tracked as most legislation generally took a week to go through procedures, but added the move complied with legislative conventions.

The commissioner’s office spokesman, in a separate statement directed at the Council of the European Union, said the passing of a domestic national security law was an internal matter for the city and country.

“We urge the European Union to face up to Hong Kong society’s strong calls to support national security legislation, abandon hypocritical double standards and narrow prejudice, abide by the principles of international law and basic norms of international relations, and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs,” he said.

Foreign chambers in Hong Kong take wait-and-see approach to Article 23 law

The council said after the law was passed that the legislation could exacerbate the erosion of fundamental freedoms and political pluralism and potentially affect the work of the union’s office and consulates of its member states, as well as their citizens and companies in the city.

US Department of State deputy spokesman Vedant Patel also said on Tuesday that the legislation “was fast-tracked through the non-democratically elected Legislative Council after a truncated public comment period”.

“They use phrases such as ‘external interference’, which is incredibly vague,” he said. “We’re analysing this legislation and we are taking a look at what the potential risk could be to not just US citizens but other American interests that we might have.”

Additional reporting by Natalie Wong

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