As President Xi Jinping said in his closing speech at the annual session of the National People’s Congress last month, “National security is the bedrock of development, while stability is a prerequisite for prosperity.”
Such remarks are highly appreciated by Hong Kong residents, who had to live through periods of chaos and uncertainty not too long ago. The fact that our society can enjoy a welcome return of peace and tranquility after the turbulent insurrection period in 2019-20 is a tribute to the salutary effects of the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL) enacted by the Standing Committee of the NPC in June 2020. However, it would be naive to assume that the current stability will remain without our vigilance. All indications are that the subversive forces are still out there waiting, biding their time like crocodiles submerged in tranquil waters but ready to strike at an opportune time. With the United States ready to advance its strategy to contain China, its pawns in Hong Kong will not hesitate to stir up trouble in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region again to harm China.
The announcement that Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, is visiting Hong Kong from April 13 to 18, and will attend the opening ceremony of the city’s National Security Education Day on Saturday, reaffirms the importance the central government attaches to the implementation of “one country, two systems” in the HKSAR.
Thus, the SAR government is absolutely correct in actively promoting the National Security Education Day on April 15, as designated by the NPCSC. The objective is to raise public awareness of national security, encouraging a general consciousness of the importance of safeguarding national security, enhancing the capability to fend off national security threats, deepening public understanding of the country’s Constitution, the Basic Law and national security legislation, and fostering a sense of national identity.
The announcement that Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, is visiting Hong Kong from April 13 to 18, and will attend the opening ceremony of the city’s National Security Education Day on Saturday, reaffirms the importance the central government attaches to the implementation of “one country, two systems” in the HKSAR
The day will start with the National Security Education Day opening ceremony-cum-seminars at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre. Other activities include a flag-raising ceremony, an open day for each of the five respective disciplined services, plus school workshops and travelling exhibitions. Meanwhile, related community activities will be held in the 18 districts across the city. In addition, 60,000 new national security picture books will be distributed to primary schools throughout Hong Kong, while the Leisure and Cultural Services Department will distribute an animated version of the 2022 national security picture book Wonder of the Stars.
The current HKSAR administration under Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu should be given due credit for the various initiatives in promoting national security education. The recent study visit to the Chinese mainland by secondary school students is a good start. Many Hong Kong students have never visited the mainland. The visit will broaden their vision and understanding of our motherland and cultivate their sense of patriotism and belonging. It is pleasing to note that at least 45,000 students in 460 groups will join these visits to 22 destinations this year.
The HKSAR government’s recent announcement that all local free-to-air television and radio broadcasters are required to broadcast no less than 30 minutes of programs on national education, national identity and national security legislation per week is another excellent step in the right direction.
It is important to emphasize that the responsibility for upholding national security does not rest solely with the government; all institutions, professional bodies, and, indeed, every resident should have a role to play. Therefore, there should be an all-encompassing partnership strategy for national security education.
First, we can draw on the expertise available in our community. As with the Independent Commission Against Corruption, an advisory committee on national security education can be introduced with members including public relations (PR) experts, media and legal practitioners and youth education experts. They would provide valuable advice on how to promote national security education effectively. The committee would also assist in mapping out a comprehensive partnership strategy to enable all stakeholders to play their roles in fostering national security education.
Second, the best channel for community education is the media, which can reach everyone in society. Last year, the police produced a dramatized video showing police officers racing to rescue hostages during a simulated terrorist attack, demonstrating police professionalism and dedication, which was highly rated. More can be done. The recent top-rated TVB drama The Invisibles is another excellent example of educating the public on the various threats of terrorism. The HKSAR government can sponsor more TV dramas and movies on this subject.
Third, more APIs should be produced to reinforce the messages on TV and radio as regular reminders to the public, as well as appealing to the public to report anything suspicious. Similarly, more use of social media is an effective means to reach the younger generations who hardly watch TV these days. The police’s use of Facebook is a successful example. More use of Twitter, WhatsApp, WeChat, Instagram, YouTube and Douyin should be considered. We should learn from the harrowing experience of the 2019 insurrection when the subversive forces created popular social media groups in all districts to organize and coordinate local subversive activities. The Home Affairs Department should create social media groups in each of the 18 districts to facilitate direct communication with residents about district affairs and to counter fake news in the districts.
Fourth, we should instill a sense of responsibility for national security among all professional bodies in Hong Kong by revising the code of conduct of all civil servants, professionals, medical practitioners, lawyers, accountants, etc, to include a responsibility to safeguard national security.
However, no matter how hard we try, we should still expect counterforces from overseas and locally to work against our efforts in national security education. An international PR consultancy firm should be engaged to map out an effective global PR counterstrategy. We can promote our Quality Migrant Admission Scheme by launching more significant publicity overseas to tell the Hong Kong story simultaneously. More international celebrities can be invited to see for themselves the actual state of our society. During the recent Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament, two famous veteran stars of the Liverpool Football Club — Dirk Kuyt and Vladmir Smicer — were invited to come from England to Hong Kong to watch the tournament, and in their press interviews, had nothing but praise for the city.
In due course, the HKSAR government can consider publishing a thorough report on the 2019-20 insurrection, laying out in detail the roles of the US and UK in this “color revolution”, for the world to see how these devious Western governments have tried to stir up trouble in the city.
As for the local media, proactive steps should be taken against those who try to instigate a sense of dissatisfaction and hatred among the public toward the central and HKSAR governments. We should watch out for an “Apple Daily 2.0”. It is inconceivable why Falun Gong is not banned in Hong Kong, as their agents have often been seen openly distributing their publications, which are banned on the mainland, at places with dense pedestrian traffic around the city. Those media outlets should not be let off the hook if they engage commentators or cartoonists who have already left Hong Kong and who continue to make inflammatory statements to instigate hatred of both the central and HKSAR governments from abroad.
The Communications Authority can draw reference from the mainland’s recently published 21-article draft on managing generative AI services to come up with a comprehensive guideline and code of conduct for local media and social media and to impose sanctions for any breaches of such policies, such as content involving subversion, terrorism, ethnic discrimination and fake information, or content inciting hatred and violence. Any sanctions should, of course, be in line with the due process principle.
From the ICAC’s experience, the best community education is to publicize successful enforcement cases. To this end, a vote of thanks should be given to the Hong Kong Police Force’s National Security Department (NSD) for its excellent efforts and successes in the past three years after the department was established basically from scratch with hardly any experience for guidance. In these three years, the NSD has made a substantial impact on enforcement with a total of 243 arrests and 140 people prosecuted, including suspects involved in a subversive primary election campaign and several terrorist groups, and smashing their bomb factories and bomb plots.
Finally, the detailed court judgments on NSL cases should be the best defense against the West’s bashing of our judicial system. I suggest that in the forthcoming trial of the case involving Apple Daily and the current trial of the case involving Stand News, which are the targets of Western bashing of our judicial independence, the final court judgments can be televised to let the world witness the fairness of the rules-based court decisions. However, before doing so, the judges should remove their anachronistic wigs to demonstrate that Hong Kong has finally shaken off the last vestige of its colonial history.
The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and a council member of the Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies. He is a retired deputy commissioner of the ICAC.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.