Hong Kong must remain vigilant to national security threats that can ‘spread like viruses’, city leader John Lee warns

Hong Kong must remain vigilant to national security threats that can ‘spread like viruses’, city leader John Lee warns

Hong Kong must remain vigilant to external risks even though the domestic national security legislation has been enacted, the city leader has said, warning that threats may emerge suddenly behind one’s back and spread like viruses.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu on Monday also pledged to enhance intelligence-gathering capabilities and national security education as part of the government’s continuing efforts to implement the legislation that came into effect last month.

Lee warned about threats in a keynote address he delivered at the opening ceremony of National Security Education Day. The event was the first held after the city passed and enacted the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance, mandated by Article 23 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

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The chief executive argued the city should maintain vigilance over national security risks, pointing to their “sudden” and “persistent” nature.

Lee said both the “colour revolution” in 2019 – a reference to anti-government protests in the city – and a recent terrorist attack in Moscow occurred suddenly, adding that hostile forces would persist in mounting attacks against Hong Kong for their own political interests.

“The threat of hostile forces will continue [as they] wait for a chance to attack. Just like viruses, they will not stop attacking us just because we have been vaccinated,” Lee said, referring to the national security laws.

“We cannot forget the pain, simply because the wound has healed.”

Lee also highlighted the secrecy behind such national security threats.

“Foreign agents might hide in different industries to cover up. Spies might even get married and have children, and only launch a terrorist attack such as an explosion or steal state secrets before they disappear,” he said.

Lee pledged that the city would continue with its efforts to implement the new ordinance in four directions. These are explaining the law, strengthening the internal mechanisms of the government, preventing and punishing illegal acts and improving law enforcers’ intelligence-gathering capacities, and enhancing national security education efforts.

Hong Kong enacted its domestic national security law on March 23, targeting five major activities: treason; insurrection, incitement to mutiny and disaffection, and acts with seditious intent; sabotage; external interference endangering national security; and theft of state secrets and espionage.

It sits alongside the Beijing-imposed 2020 national security law, which outlawed secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorism.

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Lee said his administration would focus on boosting the economy and improving people’s livelihoods after building a “protective wall” to guard against national security threats.

Investing in major infrastructure projects such as the Northern Metropolis, and facilitating “high-quality development” like artificial intelligence and the digital economy were among schemes to revive the economy, Lee added.

He said he was glad to see the business sectors had embraced changes in people’s consumption habits, including the trend of Hongkongers spending across the border, and tourists not staying overnight in the city, by strengthening their services and introducing new measures.

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The disciplined services hold a joint flag-raising ceremony at the Hong Kong Police College. Photo: Jelly Tse

At a panel discussion held during the event, security chief Chris Tang Ping-keung said Hongkongers had finally understood the importance of national security legislation to maintain prosperity in the wake of the 2019 social unrest.

Hours before the high-level seminar, Tang’s bureau led the disciplined services in holding a flag-raising ceremony at the Hong Kong Police College in Wong Chuk Hang.

Chief Secretary Eric Chan Kwok-ki, who officiated at the ceremony, said the government would fully cooperate with a newly established high-level working group to promote patriotic education and focus efforts on four aspects: school education; local community; history, politics, economy and culture; and media publicity.

The Working Group on Patriotic Education, set up last week, is under the supervision of the Constitution and Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee which is chaired by Chan, the city’s No 2 official.

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