Macau Sets Up Committee to Enforce 'National Security' Laws

macau.jpg Two men chat in front of a view of the skyline in the Chinese territory of Macau, Dec. 6, 2017.

Authorities in Macau say the city will set up a committee to monitor "threats to national security" in the city, a former Portuguese enclave that reverted to Chinese rule in 1999.

The function of the committee is to provide co-ordination for the government in protecting national sovereignty, security and development, the Macau Special Administrative Region government said in a statement.

Meeting twice a year, the committee will also conduct studies and make policy suggestions, it said.

It will be chaired by chief executive Fernando Chui, but the heads of police, the judiciary, legal affairs bureau and security will also sit on it.

An "affiliated office" will be run by the head of security and the city's judicial police, which carrying out investigations and detective work in its civil law system.

The move comes after ruling Chinese Communist Party officials have repeatedly called on Hong Kong to enact national security legislation that would include a ban on "seditious" or "separatist" speech.

A Macau government spokesman appeared to refer to such concerns, which have led to a proposed ban on the separatist Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) and the debarring of election candidates by government officials in the city.

"Many cases ... have happened in other places, proving that it is important to be alert to dangers even in times of calm," a government spokesman said.

The new committee and the "affiliated office" will be up and running by the end of September, the government said.

Macau enacted a national security law in 2009, in accordance with Article 23 of its Basic Law.

Communist Party expects new bill

By contrast, the Hong Kong government shelved an initial bid to bring in subversion and sedition laws following a mass street protest of around half a million people in 2003, but the ruling Chinese Communist Party has said it expects the administration to introduce a new bill to the city's Legislative Council (LegCo) to prevent sedition, subversion and separatism.

Hong Kong police said this month they have gathered more than 700 documents as "evidence" supporting their call to ban the HKNP, citing many public speeches and comments made by its convenor Chan Ho-tin, also known as Andy Chan.

Police say the party's aims of building a republic of Hong Kong and abolishing its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, are in violation of the law's first principle; that Hong Kong is an administrative region of the People's Republic of China.

They cite Chan's pro-independence activities, which include "infiltrating" secondary schools via his party's "political enlightenment" program, publishing articles, taking part in elections to the Legislative Council (LegCo), and various fund-raising and campaigning activities on the streets of Hong Kong.

Claiming that the HKNP has plans in place to achieve the purpose of promoting localism and separatism, police say the party poses an "imminent threat" to China’s territorial integrity and national security, because Chan had refused to rule out the use of force or civil disobedience.

Chan told reporters on Tuesday that Beijing is clearly behind the move to ban his party.

"It's very clear that the Chinese government is behind this, and that 'one country, two systems' means that China gets to interfere more and more in Hong Kong affairs," he said. "There is no legal basis for this to speak of."

Hong Kong secretary for security John Lee said deputy Chinese premier Han Zheng had thrown his support behind the government's attempts to "handle the HKNP according to law" during a visit to Beijing by a law enforcement delegation.

"He has mentioned that there would be no tolerance of any attempt to threaten the sovereignty of the state, and he did mention that in connection with any independence advocacy, the Security Bureau should deal with it in accordance with the law," Lee told reporters.

Lee declined to comment on the recent detentions of two members of the pro-democracy party Demosisto by state security police in March and August, however.

No need for Article 23

Meanwhile, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said her administration has no intention of moving to introduce national security legislation for the time being, or a national security committee to enforce it.

"Our primary responsibility is to find the right opportunity and create the necessary conditions for us to put into effect the local legislation before we need a committee to ensure the legislation is effectively enforced," Lam said.

Hong Kong Civic Party leader Alvin Yeung, a barrister by training, said he sees no need for Article 23 legislation in Hong Kong at all.

"We have always believed that Hong Kong is an extremely safe place, and a lot of Hong Kong people are very worried about Article 23 legislation," Yeung said. "They also lack trust in the Hong Kong government."

"That's why we have insisted all along that we must have universal suffrage before we can enact Article 23 legislation."

Under the terms of the 1997 handover agreement, Hong Kong people were promised a continuation of their existing rights and freedoms for at least 50 years, including freedom of speech, association and political participation.

But China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC) issued a decree on Aug. 31, 2014 that potential election candidates would need to be acceptable to Beijing, sparking the 79-day Occupy Central movement for "genuine universal suffrage."

Six pro-democracy lawmakers were stripped of their seats in recent years, after Beijing intervened with a ruling on the validity of their oaths of allegiance, making it harder for the pro-democracy caucus in LegCo to block unpopular legislation.

And former Occupy Central campaigner Agnes Chow was debarred by election officials from standing in the 2018 Hong Kong Island by-election, for advocating self-determination for Hong Kong, in a move that was widely condemned as a threat to the city's political life.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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