28th November 2022 – (Hong Kong) Chief Executive John Lee held a media conference at the Government Headquarters at 6.45pm today (28th).
Chief Executive John Lee announced that he would submit a report as required by the central government, and proposed to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress to request an interpretation of the national security law after Court of Final Appeal upheld the High Court’s decision to allow British barrister Timothy Wynn Owen KC to represent Jimmy Lai in his case. Department of Justice lost its final avenue to overturn the decision.
Lee pointed out that he recently received a letter from the central government requesting the chief executive to submit the work report of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of HKSAR to the central government. He made a statement as the chairman of the Committee, saying that according to Article 3 of the National Security Law, the administrative, legislative and judicial organs of the SAR should effectively punish and stop violations of national security. He continued that the National Security Law has been implemented for two years and has played a role in maintaining national security, and will submit a report as soon as possible according to the central government’s requirements.
Regarding the representation of Jimmy Lai by Tim Owen KC, Lee will mention the case in his work report and suggest that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress interpret the law. Jimmy Lai was charged with multiple crimes such as conspiracy to collude with foreign countries or foreign forces to endanger national security. The case will be tried in the High Court this Thursday (1st December).
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.
Lee added that “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.”
He also said that 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?”
Lastly, Lee concluded by saying, “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.”