After a chaotic year, national security legislation sets to right the wrongs in Hong Kong

Xinhua Updated: Sunday, June 14, 2020, 12:34 PM IST
Organizers of the United Front Supporting National Security Legislation and guests attend a press conference in south China's Hong Kong, June 1, 2020. | (Xinhua/Lui Siu Wai)

HONG KONG: Moving into an office in Admiralty, a sought-after location right at the center of Hong Kong's most thriving business district, should have meant a career boost for Lucy Wu. Instead, it has made her a reluctant witness of violence and vandalism.

Exactly one year ago on June 12, the businesswoman was discussing the design of their newly-rented office in a building when she saw a growing number of black-clad protesters surrounding the Legislative Council (LegCo) building across the street.

As the situation evolved, rioters began to charge police cordon lines, set fires and use violent measures to repeatedly storm the LegCo complex.

"That was the first time I had ever seen such crazy vandalism with my own eyes," she said, adding that violence and vandalism continued to escalate in Hong Kong since then, even making daily commuting a difficult task and almost putting a halt to her company's operation.

Wu said she noticed that Hong Kong's social order is "recovering somewhat" since the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature, adopted a decision last month to institute Hong Kong national security laws. "I feel more and more Hong Kong residents are regaining confidence in Hong Kong's future."

Nearly 2.93 million Hong Kong residents have signed a petition in support of the national security legislation for Hong Kong during an eight-day campaign starting from May 24.

The large number of people signing the petition fully demonstrates that the national security legislation is an essential move that meets the aspirations of Hong Kong residents, Luo Huining, director of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) said while receiving the petition from organizers.

Luo said the legislation will prevent, stop and punish acts and activities endangering national security, maintain Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability and better protect the legitimate rights and interests of Hong Kong residents.

Leung Fong-yuen, chairwoman of the Hong Kong Tourism Industry Employees General Union, is among those who felt the pains caused by the disturbances most acutely.

"In the worst hit sectors such as tourism, retail, catering and hotels, many people are struggling with scarcely any hope for business in the coming year," she said. "That's why my colleagues and I fully support the national security legislation for Hong Kong."

Leung was one of the around 25,000 people who volunteered to collect public signatures for the petition at the more than 5,400 street stands set up across Hong Kong during the campaign.

She recalled one day when she was appealing to passers-by, saying loudly that the violent incidents have resulted in a loss of 120 billion Hong Kong dollars (about 15.5 billion U.S. dollars) to Hong Kong's services sectors. Hearing her words, many people came up to sign in support of the national security legislation.

"It's because it really hit a nerve for many people," she said. Since June 2019, vandalism, arson, assault on police officers and passers-by and activities connected to home-grown terrorism have become rampant in Hong Kong.

Felix Chung, a LegCo member representing the business sector, said the unrest has resulted in a series of social problems and has scared visitors away.

"There is no peaceful environment for us to do business here," he said, adding businesses in Hong Kong generally understand and support the central authorities' decision to enact national security laws for Hong Kong and expect the legislation to bring back stability to the community.

Some big international companies have also joined local people, voicing support for the national security legislation for Hong Kong.

HSBC Chief Executive Peter Wong, also chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC), said businesses recently surveyed by HKGCC are largely positive about the impact of the legislation over the long run and agree that it will help Hong Kong maintain its status as a global financial hub.

Hong Kong's GDP slumped 8.9 percent year on year and 5.3 percent quarter on quarter during the January-March period this year, both the largest for a single quarter ever on record. The labor market also worsened in the first quarter, with the jobless rate up to 4.2 percent, the highest in more than nine years.

Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a webinar this week that the decision to establish and improve Hong Kong's legal system and enforcement mechanisms at the state level to safeguard national security demonstrates the central authorities' determination and will bring Hong Kong back on track.

The more the bottom line of national security is consolidated, the greater the space will be for Hong Kong to leverage its advantages under "one country, two systems," he stressed. Zhang's remarks were echoed by people from all walks of life in Hong Kong.

Chow Man-kong, deputy director of the China Economic Research Program of Lingnan University, said the enactment and enforcement of national security laws will help Hong Kong out of the current predicament.

Despite efforts by successive HKSAR chief executives, the deep-seated problems in Hong Kong society have not yet been resolved due to obstruction by the opposition and external forces, he said. "Hong Kong cannot move forward if 'one country, two systems' is not consolidated."

In the eyes of Dan, an Australian who has been living in Hong Kong for nearly 22 years and operates a consulting business, the national security legislation is of paramount importance to Hong Kong at present.

"It is a fantastic opportunity to restore peace and order back to Hong Kong society," he said, adding that by creating a foundation of safety and trust "we can get on and start building a better and healthier future together."

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