Professor Jairos Kangira
The passing of the national security law on Hong Kong by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress this week goes in the annals of the histories of both China and Hong Kong. Although China’s action received both positive and negative reactions, the former from its allies and the latter from its detractors led by some western countries, there is no doubt that China has affirmed its erstwhile position in the region which it lost to the British colonisers more than a century ago. In the eyes of China, the enactment of the national security law of Hong Kong is a milestone. As I see it, the law, which immediately came into effect after President Xi Jinping’s signature, is China’s emphatic statement that tells external powers or forces not to meddle in its domestic affairs. According to China, the national security on Hong Kong has been long overdue. As in other countries, national security is of paramount importance and it should not be compromised. In the words of one Hong Kong national legislator, “National security is like air. Without it, no one can survive.” This is a loud and clear message to China’s detractors.
In short, and according to the general principles, the national security law has the purpose of: “ensuring the resolute, full and faithful implementation of the policy of one country, two systems under which the people of Hong Kong administer Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy; safeguarding national security; preventing, suppressing and imposing punishment for the offences of secession, subversion, organisation and perpetration of terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or with external elements to endanger national security in relation to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; maintaining prosperity and stability of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; and protecting the lawful rights and interests of the residents of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.”
I find it commendable that while the new law will guarantee and safeguard Hong Kong’s security, it will also promote economic development under the “one country, two systems” approach of governance in the region. Questions from someone encountering the “one country, two systems” system of governance for the first time are: What does the “one country, two systems” system mean? How did it originate? Is it a feasible system? The “one country” in the mantra “one country, two systems” is China, meaning that Hong Kong is a region of the People’s Republic of China. A cursory glance at history shows that in 1842, the British forced the militarily defeated Qing government of China to sign the Nanjing Treaty, seizing Hong Kong Island. In 1860, the British again coerced the Qing government to sign another unequal treaty. In 1898, Britain again forced the Qing government to sign the Kowloon Extension Agreement, “leasing” a large area of land north of the Boundary Street of the Kowloon Island and over 200 islets nearby (later called the New Territories) for a term of 99 years until June 30, 1997. It was only in 1997 when the Chinese government formally resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong. So, under the British rule and control, Hong Kong adopted a capitalist system, while mainland China remained socialist. After its return to China, Hong Kong continued practising capitalism. To progressive minds, it is therefore undertakable and justifiable that China adopted the “one country two systems” principle in order to guarantee the autonomy of Hong Kong, and to promote peace and economic development in the region. There is no doubt from a historical perspective that Hong Kong has been a Chinese territory since ancient times; it developed a capitalist system and culture under British imperialist and colonial rule.
In the past year, Hong Kong was rocked by violent protests especially by the so-called pro-democracy groups mainly composed of young people. Mainland China has maintained that these protests are sponsored by some western countries, which are against the “one country, two systems” that China practises in relation to Hong Kong. With the competition of who is to become the global economic giant reaching its climax, with China leading the pack under The Belt and Road Initiative, there is every reason to believe that China’s western detractors have a hand in these and other disturbances in Hong Kong and elsewhere. It is more than coincidence that protests about democracy start in a region with a narrative that points roots to mainland China. One can therefore conclude that the protests are fomented by external forces to destablise Hong Kong and mainland China. It is encouraging to note that it is reported that more than half of Hong Kong’s residents support the national security law that was enacted this week. In addition, as people in Hong Kong continue to celebrate its return by Britain to mainland China 23 years ago, it affirms their allegiance to their motherland. Hong Kong’s independence anniversary is celebrated on 30 June so it is symbolic that that the national security law on Hong Kong was passed during the celebrations of the return of Hong Kong to China.
Hong Kong had been well known for its openness, prosperity, rule of law and order before the unrest broke out last year. The enactment of the national security law on Hong Kong demonstrates the Central government of China has strong resolve and confidence to maintain Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Residents in Hong Kong and the rest of the world have every reason to expect an even more prosperous and stable Hong Kong in the future.