A leading mainland expert on Hong Kong affairs yesterday called for shelved national security legislation to be enacted urgently in the wake of last week’s riot in Mong Kok, backing Beijing’s
The call from Basic Law Committee member Rao Geping, a law professor at Peking University, came days after Hong Kong security minister Lai Tung-kwok moved to quash concerns that the riot would prompt the government to revive the controversial legislation.
Under Article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the city must enact its own national security law. But a bill to that effect was shelved in 2003 after a massive public backlash.
Hundreds of protesters clashed with the police last Monday night in the worst violence Hong Kong has seen in decades. About 130 people, including 90 police officers, were injured.
A total of 69 people have been arrested so far in connection with the riot. More than half of them have been charged with rioting.
The latest to be arrested were two men, aged 17 and 21, on Monday night. The two, identified as air-conditioning technicians, were charged yesterday with rioting.
Localist group Hong Kong Indigenous has been singled out for condemnation as its members were identified as rioters. Beijing’s liaison office chief Zhang Xiaoming has branded them “radical separatists”.
Speaking in the capital yesterday, Rao endorsed Beijing’s move to put the Hong Kong rioters in a similar category to separatists in Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan.
“The level of seriousness might be different, but ... the goal of these forces is to disunite the country, and advocate the region’s separation from it,” Rao said. “From this perspective, it is difficult to see any difference.”
READ MORE: Hong Kong localist group ‘knows no bounds’ when it comes to protesting
The Hong Kong affairs specialist added that the Mong Kok riot, which he considered “a premeditated act”, showed the necessity for the city to get started with its own national security law.
“Hong Kong’s security is not just local, it is part of the national security ... But Hong Kong’s law on protecting national security is not yet complete,” he pointed out.
However, Rao’s call did not appear to impress a prominent Beijing loyalist, Basic Law Committee vice-chairwoman Elsie Leung Oi-sie. Speaking on the sidelines of a spring reception in Hong Kong, the city’s former justice minister said: “[Rao] is entitled to his own opinion ... As to the timing of when to legislate, it depends on the government’s priority.”
Rao was speaking hours after Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said the truth behind the violence and bloodshed in Mong Kok would be revealed by a police probe and court proceedings.
At a special meeting of the Legislative Council’s security panel yesterday morning, pro-establishment lawmakers were also concerned about legislation issues in the aftermath of the bloody riot.
But instead of talking about national security, they urged the government to legislate to prevent protesters from wearing masks, as many of them hid their identities during the riot to avoid being caught by police.
Government officials were non-committal on the suggestion.