(To watch the full media session with sign language interpretation, click here.)
Chief Executive John Lee today issued a statement on the interpretation of the National Security Law (NSL) by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) in accordance with Article 65 of the National Security Law, as decided at its 38th session.
On November 28, Mr Lee submitted a report to the central government as required by the latter in accordance with Article 11 of the National Security Law.
In the report, the Chief Executive recommended that a request be made to the NPCSC to issue an interpretation in accordance with Article 65 of the NSL in order to clarify the question: “Based on the legislative intent and objectives of the NSL, can an overseas solicitor or barrister who is not qualified to practise generally in Hong Kong participate by any means in the handling of work in cases concerning offence endangering national security?”
Today the NPCSC made an interpretation of Article 14 and Article 47 of the NSL. Mr Lee welcomes and thanks the NPCSC for the interpretation.
The interpretation has clarified the following points:
1. In accordance with Article 14, the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region has the power to make evaluation and decision on whether an issue concerning national security is involved. The decision of the committee may be legally implemented, and should be respected and implemented by the executive authorities, legislature, judiciary, etc, and any organisations of the Hong Kong SAR.
2. The courts of the Hong Kong SAR shall request and obtain a certificate from the Chief Executive to certify whether an act involves national security or whether the relevant evidence involves state secrets when such questions arise in the adjudication of a case. The certificate so issued shall be binding on the court.
3. The question as to “whether an overseas lawyer who is not qualified to practise generally in Hong Kong may act as the defence counsel or litigation agent in a case concerning national security offence” is a question that requires certification under Article 47 of the NSL, and a certificate from the Chief Executive should be obtained. If the courts of the Hong Kong SAR have not obtained the certificate issued by the Chief Executive, the committee should carry out its duty under Article 14 of the NSL to make evaluation and decision on such situation and question.
Addressing media questions on the interpretation tonight, Mr Lee emphasised that it deals with principles rather than a particular case.
“The interpretation deals with principles – the principle of how Article 14 and Article 47 of the National Security Law should be applied so as to help Hong Kong solve the problem it faces. In fact, it is a principle that should be applied to solve other problems that may arise in the Hong Kong SAR’s implementation of the National Security Law.
“The interpretation, on this occasion, clearly explains the purposes and intentions of the National Security Law by specifying the role of the Chief Executive in assessing and certifying whether any activity relates to national security and whether any information relates to a national secret.
“This power exists in the National Security Law since its enactment and implementation. So the interpretation of Article 47 does not create extra power for the Chief Executive in such certification. The Chief Executive only does the certification. He does not rule on a case. All cases are ruled by judges in court, in accordance with the law and the evidence and facts in front of the judge. And in each case, the defendant is fully represented by lawyers chosen by him, who will be arguing the case on his behalf.”
Mr Lee said the committee and the Hong Kong SAR Government will fully implement the duties stipulated in the contents of the interpretation. In particular, the committee will make evaluation and decision on whether “the participation of overseas lawyers who are not qualified to practise generally in Hong Kong in a national security case” involves national security issues, and the policies to be adopted in this regard.
The Hong Kong SAR Government will implement the committee’s evaluation and decision on such question, and actively consider introducing amendments to the Legal Practitioners Ordinance.
The Chief Executive said the NPCSC’s interpretation of the NSL provisions made pursuant to the power conferred by the Constitution and the NSL, has clarified the meaning of the relevant NSL provisions.
It establishes principles and is of great significance in the further improvement of the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security of the Hong Kong SAR, and the effective safeguarding of national security, he added.
The Chief Executive said the Hong Kong SAR Government steadfastly safeguards national sovereignty, security and development interests, and upholds the authority of the NSL. It resolutely carries out its duties and obligations to safeguard national security in accordance with the law, and to ensure the steadfast and successful implementation of “one country, two systems”.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan also expressed firm and resolute support for the NPCSC’s interpretation of the NSL.
Mr Chan said that the interpretation will help improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding the Hong Kong SAR’s national security, and ensure the full and accurate implementation of the NSL.
The Hong Kong SAR Government shall render full support and resolutely carry out its duties and obligations in safeguarding national security and govern Hong Kong in accordance with the law, in order to protect the interest of the Hong Kong community and its residents as a whole and to contribute to the steadfast and successful implementation of “one country, two systems”, he added.
Separately, the Judiciary said it respects the lawful exercise of power by the NPCSC to make legally binding interpretations of Articles 14 and 47 of the NSL.
The Judiciary will, as required by the NSL, continue to effectively prevent, suppress and impose punishment for any act or activity endangering national security in accordance with the law.
It will also, in the exercise of its independent judicial power, including that of final adjudication, under the Basic Law, impartially perform its judicial functions and handle cases involving national security accordingly.