Transcript of remarks by CE at media session (with video)
Reporter: You said you would ask Beijing to interpret the law as soon as possible. Do you have a timetable for that? Will this delay the trial because it's starting on Thursday? And my second question is, there are no provisions in the National Security Law against the use of overseas counsel. So, what are the Government's objections in this case? Thank you.
Chief Executive: I shall submit my report to the Central People's Government very soon. And I will request the Central People's Government to also consider my request as soon as possible. For an important and significant matter like this, I think the Central People's Government will pay special attention and regard to the whole matter. I trust that this matter will be addressed as soon as possible. It will be appropriate for the Secretary for Justice to seek an adjournment to the actual trial and we shall proceed to do that.
The questions that I'm seeking the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) to look into is to examine, based on the legislative intent and purpose of the Hong Kong National Security Law, whether an overseas lawyer or counsel who is not qualified to practise generally in Hong Kong, participate by any means in the handling of cases concerning offenses endangering national security. I have given my reasons and considerations in Chinese. I will provide you with the English translation later, rather than repeating the whole statement.
Chief Executive: Let me just sum it up for you then, all right, but for the full details, you have to refer to the actual text. Well, first of all, the Hong Kong National Security Law is a law enacted to deal with the actual situation which occurred in 2019 in Hong Kong, when there was massive violence and disturbances and advocacy for "Hong Kong independence" and, also, there was interference by foreign forces into Hong Kong affairs. The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (of the State Council) has, in an article in 2021 which was made public, described the incident as a Hong Kong version of "colour revolution", and the Hong Kong National Security Law was enacted under these circumstances and in this context.
The Hong Kong National Security Law, relative to other Hong Kong laws, has an overriding position which is described in Article 62 of the Hong Kong National Security Law, which says that if there are incompatibilities, then the Hong Kong National Security Law takes prevalence.
The risks of national security are serious and varying. A lot of these risks actually occur in the planning stage, in the conspiracy stage, in the collusion stage. If it involves collusion with a foreign government, then it's very likely that it occurs overseas. So even if they occur well before the actual offence takes place, they may not be easily seen or observed. It is important that anybody who is involved in the work to safeguard national security has regard to this seriously.
There have been many incidents of foreign government officials and foreign politicians trying to interfere with Hong Kong affairs, also targeting our country and Hong Kong, making announcements or taking measures to sanction, to prohibit or to stop the use of equipment or items. There have been incidents in which officials of other countries openly interfered with people coming to Hong Kong to perform normal activities, including people in the legal and commercial sectors.
At present, there are no effective means to ensure that a counsel from overseas will not have conflict of interest because of his (national interest). And there are also no means to ensure that he has not been coerced, compromised or in any way controlled by foreign governments, associations or persons. There are also no effective means to ensure that a counsel from overseas will comply with Article 63 of the Hong Kong National Security Law, that during his legal practice, he will keep secret of information such as state secrets, commercial secrets, or personal details. These underlying threats exist. So it is a question of whether to allow overseas counsels, who do not have the general practice qualification to carry out legal service in Hong Kong, to take part in national security cases. Is it compatible with the legislative intent and purpose of the Hong Kong National Security Law?
I also consider that, while Hong Kong people have the right to choose their own lawyers, according to stated cases, this means that the defendant can choose amongst all lawyers who can practice in Hong Kong, but not choosing a lawyer that is from overseas and who does not have the right at that time to practice in Hong Kong. So not allowing counsels from overseas of this kind to come to Hong Kong to represent a defendant is compatible with the Hong Kong National Security Law's Article 4 and Article 5, which safeguards and respects human rights, particularly the rights of the defendant. It is under all these considerations that I made the recommendation to seek the NPCSC's interpretation the Hong Kong National Security Law to answer that question.
(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)
Ends/Monday, November 28, 2022
Issued at HKT 21:55
Issued at HKT 21:55
Audio / Video
CE meets the media