On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, John Lee, announced that the semi-autonomous city plans to introduce its National Security Law in 2024, four years following Beijing’s imposition of comprehensive legislation aimed at silencing dissent.
Lee stated in his annual policy address that the government is actively working on formulating effective legislative options and that the legislative exercise will be finalized in 2024.
During a lengthy address lasting over three hours, the leader appointed by Beijing introduced a series of measures to rejuvenate Hong Kong’s economy, which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and address the issue of declining population growth. Simultaneously, there was a strong emphasis on safeguarding the city from “external influences.”
In 2019, thousands of individuals participated in large-scale pro-democracy protests in the financial hub, demanding greater liberties and autonomy from mainland China. In response, Beijing imposed a national security law that included severe penalties, including life imprisonment, for four significant offenses: secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign entities. In his second policy address on Wednesday, former security chief, now a politician, cautioned that certain countries were eroding China’s authority and the ‘one country, two systems’ framework in Hong Kong. Furthermore, he declared Hong Kong’s intention to introduce “patriotic education” aimed at strengthening national identity and creating a robust foundation for national unity and cohesion.
Lee stated that the government is actively advancing to formulate efficient legislative options and will conclude the legislative process in 2024 to fulfill their constitutional obligation.
During his speech, Lee emphasized the real estate market and the need to stabilize the struggling economy. He expressed optimism that Hong Kong’s economy, which contracted by 3.5 percent the previous year, would experience growth in the current year, driven by an increase in inbound tourism, improved consumer spending, and a decline in unemployment.
In the first half of the year, Hong Kong’s economy expanded by 2.2 percent, and it is projected to achieve a four percent year-on-year growth rate. Nonetheless, Lee acknowledged that the external economic landscape remains challenging due to interest rate hikes in certain advanced economies, which negatively impacted Hong Kong’s investment and asset markets.
Hong Kong is mandated to establish its law addressing seven security-related offenses, including treason and espionage, under the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution. The mission, commonly referred to as “a constitutional responsibility” by the city administration, has yet to be completed more than 25 years after Hong Kong’s return to Chinese authority.