The new national security law that Beijing wants to put in place in Hong Kong worries the Portuguese authorities, as it threatens the semi-autonomy of the territory, said the Consul-General of Portugal in Macao and Hong Kong to Lusa Portuguese News Agency.
“Obviously, we are a little concerned that this new legislation may call into question the ‘One country, two systems’ principle,” said Consul-General Paulo Cunha-Alves, stressing that Portugal’s position coincides with the one expressed by the European Union.
“We would have preferred the law to be adopted by the competent authorities of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region,” the ambassador told Lusa.
“But we also understand” the decision, he said, remembering the lack of response by the political authorities in Hong Kong.
The situation is different from what happened in March 2009 in Macao during the enactment of article 23 of the Basic Law.
Macao’s national security law prohibits and punishes acts of “treason, secession, and subversion” against the central government, as well as “preparatory acts” leading to any of these acts.
For the Portuguese diplomat, “the important thing [now] is that a dialogue should exist between the various forces of society … towards development”.
The ambassador’s statements to Lusa Portuguese News Agency were made on the sidelines of the celebrations of June 10 – Dia de Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities.
In February 2003, the Hong Kong government proposed the National Security (Legislative Provisions) Bill 2003 to the Legislative Council which aimed to amend the Crimes Ordinance, the Official Secrets Ordinance and the Societies Ordinance pursuant to the obligation imposed by Article 23 of the Basic Law of Hong Kong.
The proposed bill caused considerable controversy in Hong Kong and a massive demonstration on July 1, 2003. In the aftermath, the bill was withdrawn after it became clear that it would not get the necessary support from the Legislative Council for it to be passed. The bill was then shelved indefinitely.
Beijing wants to put in place the national security law on Hong Kong, a proposal approved during the annual session of the National People’s Assembly on May 28 in Beijing.
The document now presented came after repeated warnings by the Chinese government against dissents in Hong Kong, shaken in 2019 by seven months of demonstrations.
The EU considered that the diploma in question “reduces Hong Kong’s autonomy” and “represents genuine, political and economic problems”.
China maintained that the legislation “does not call into question” the “one country, two systems”, and that it is “just a way to increase security” in the special administrative region with a law that “should have already been passed”.
The former British colony returned to China in 1997 under an agreement that guaranteed the territory 50 years of autonomy and freedoms, under the principle of “one country, two systems”.
As with Macao since 1999, Hong Kong has agreed a 50-year period with a high degree of autonomy, at the executive, legislative and judicial level, with the central Chinese government being responsible for foreign relations and defence.