Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam Silent as Beijing Finalizes Draconian National Security Law

June 29, 2020 Updated: June 30, 2020

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam refused to comment on the status of the Chinese Communist Party’s proposed national security law for her city during her weekly press conference on June 30, despite local media reporting that the law has been passed in Beijing.

Lam said that it was inappropriate for her to comment on the law since the standing committee of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), was still having its meeting Tuesday morning.

She added that once the law was passed by the NPC standing committee and added to the annex of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, her administration would then answer questions on how the law would be implemented and enforced in Hong Kong.

On Sunday, the NPC standing committee began its three-day meeting. The very next day, China’s state-run media Xinhua reported that a version of the law that could be voted on had been tabled.

Beijing formally began the process of drafting a national security law for Hong Kong on May 28, after the NPC conducted a ceremonial vote. The law would criminalize those who engage in activities connected to “subversion, secession, terrorism, and foreign interference” against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

On June 20, the NPC standing committee released more details about the draft proposal: Beijing would have jurisdiction over certain cases under exceptional circumstances, the regime would also establish a national security agency in the city, and the chief executive—a position currently held by pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam—would appoint judges to hear national security-related cases.

Two Hong Kong media, Now TV and RTHK, reported on Tuesday morning that the NPC standing committee had passed the law unanimously after a ceremonial vote, citing unnamed sources. Additionally, RTHK reported that the maximum penalty for crimes like “secession” is more than 10 years in prison.

China’s state-run media Global Times also reported that the national security law was passed, citing unnamed Hong Kong media.

US Sanctions

At the presser, Lam also said that she would not be “scared” of any sanctions imposed on Hong Kong by the United States when answering a reporter’s question.

Hours before her press conference, the U.S. State Department announced that it will end exports of U.S.-origin defense equipment to Hong Kong, as well as restrict U.S. defense and dual-use technologies in the former British colony given Beijing’s intentions to impose its national security law.

“The United States is forced to take this action to protect U.S. national security,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a press statement. “We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China.”

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross also announced that the United States is revoking Hong Kong’s special economic status, which the city has long enjoyed because it was a separate entity from mainland China under the 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act—until the passing of the CCP’s security law.

After the press conference, three founders of Hong Kong’s local pro-democracy party Demosistō; Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and Nathan Law, announced their withdrawal from their party.

Wong, who also announced his resignation from his secretary-general position in the party, wrote that he will continue to exercise his beliefs in his personal capacity, in the face of an “uncertain future” with the national security law.

Law wrote that he will continue to take part in the mass protests in Hong Kong in a personal capacity.

Chow wrote that her decision to leave the party was a “heavy and forced decision.”

She added that she will not take part in any international activities in the future in the face of a “bitter winter” ahead.

Follow Frank on Twitter: @HwaiDer