National People's Congress 2020: Q & A

National security law: What next?

The National People's Congress (NPC), China's Parliament, yesterday approved a resolution that sets the stage for a national security law to be passed in Hong Kong. Here are some things to know related to the move:

1 Q: What happens now?

A: As the top lawmaking body in China, the NPC's move could have far-reaching consequences in Hong Kong, a special administrative region (SAR).

The ball is now in the court of the NPC standing committee, which would flesh out details of the legislation in consultation with the Hong Kong government and the Basic Law Committee.

2 Q: How soon can this happen?

A: Many analysts believe the entire process would be completed within the year, with some suggesting this could happen as early as August.

3 Q: Does this mean Chinese law will be enforced in Hong Kong?

A: Not in its entirety.

Differences between the legal systems in China and Hong Kong will be reconciled by the Basic Law Committee, which helps interpret mainland laws in the Hong Kong context. The committee has six legal experts each from the mainland and Hong Kong.

The group will likely be heavily involved in the wording and drafting of Hong Kong's national security law.

4 Q: Will there still be a need for Hong Kong to pass Article 23, another national security law?

A: Yes, said Dr Willy Fu of the Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation. The final legislation from the NPC will be added to Annex 3 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini-Constitution, but it does not replace Article 23.

"Point Three of the draft law says that Hong Kong still has to pass Article 23," Dr Fu told The Straits Times. But he noted that there was some overlap with the new national security law, especially regarding secession and foreign interference.

"But the Hong Kong government is still obligated to pass the law, though they might modify it slightly."

5 Q: Who will enforce the new law?

A: Specifics have not been released since the law is technically yet to be drafted.

But using Macau - another SAR which has had similar legislation since 2009 - as a guide, it is likely that local law enforcement will still be the ones doing the enforcing , Dr Fu said.

In 2018, Macau created a national security commission chaired by the Chief Executive and the region's Secretary for Security, along with top Macau officials as members.

The commission is meant to help organise and coordinate work relating to sovereignty and security, and developing "national interests".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2020, with the headline 'National security law: What next?'. Print Edition | Subscribe