Hong Kong lawmaker Paul Tse adds disclaimer to Facebook account saying ‘criticisms’ meant to improve government policies, not create hatred

Hong Kong lawmaker Paul Tse adds disclaimer to Facebook account saying ‘criticisms’ meant to improve government policies, not create hatred

An outspoken Hong Kong lawmaker has added a disclaimer to his Facebook account declaring that his “criticisms” are meant to improve government policies and not create hatred, becoming the first politician to do so following the enactment of the city’s domestic national security law.

Paul Tse Wai-chun, who earlier shut his account before reactivating it, told the Post on Sunday he added the disclaimer as a “precaution” and out of “prudence” in light of the new Safeguarding National Security Ordinance enacted last month, which made the “net” wider now.

“As a lawyer, I will also advise my clients to exercise precaution over the new law, and so I do the same for my own Facebook page,” he said.

In a post on Saturday, Tse said the content on his Facebook page was for record-keeping only.

“All criticisms are intended to raise questions and suggestions for improvement, or to advocate for the central and local governments’ policymaking through legal channels,” he wrote.

“It is absolutely not my intention to create any hatred, contempt or betrayal of the national system, institutions, or the constitutional order, administrative, legislative or judicial organs of the SAR.”

Tse also disabled the function for people to leave comments on his page.

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The legislation, mandated by Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, introduced five new types of offences: treason; insurrection, incitement to mutiny and disaffection, and acts with seditious intention; theft of state secrets and espionage; sabotage endangering national security; and external interference.

The offence related to acts with seditious intention covers those invoking hatred, contempt, disaffection against China’s fundamental system, the central government, and Hong Kong’s executive, legislative and judicial authorities.

Asked if he feared his move would embarrass the government, Tse said authorities should look into the issue the other way round.

“The government also encourages people to obey the law. It should not view [the move] with a negative attitude that it might create embarrassment but that everyone should be cautious with the new law,” he argued.

Tse engaged in a rare fiery exchange with Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu during a question and answer session in the legislature in January after the lawmaker said Hongkongers were depressed under the city’s “legalist rule”.

He also suggested that authorities had placed more importance on views expressed on Xiaohongshu, mainland China’s Instagram-like social media platform, than those of Hong Kong taxpayers.

Lee, in response, said Tse’s comments about Xiaohongshu amounted to an attempt to stir up trouble in different places.

Hong Kong leader reprimands lawmaker for ‘stirring up conflicts’

The city leader said it was “dangerous” for lawmakers and the government not to work together at a time when the city “was governed by patriots”, and that some words used by Tse had reminded him of “the adjectives that are often used in ‘soft resistance’ and by reactionary forces” during the 2019 social unrest.

Beijing overhauled the city’s electoral system based on the “patriots-only” principle in 2021, two years after anti-government protests rocked the city for months.

Tse said his move to include a disclaimer had nothing to do with his row with Lee, adding that some had agreed the city leader “overreacted”.

“I will still be critical [over policies] whenever needed,” he said. “It’s just there is a line now for us to observe and be vigilant.”

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