HONG KONG • China’s Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong said yesterday that some actions during last year’s pro-democracy protests were “terrorist in nature” and “troublemakers” colluded with foreign forces, posing “imminent danger” to national security.
Mr Xie Feng, Commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, made his remarks during a speech on the proposed national security legislation in Hong Kong, in which he sought to reassure foreign investors that they would not be affected.
Mr Xie said the law tackled secession, subversion, foreign interference and terrorism and would affect only a small number of residents, while for the rest “there was absolutely no need to panic”.
“The legislation will alleviate the grave concerns among local and foreign business communities about the violent and terrorist forces,” Mr Xie said.
His comments added to a chorus of strengthening government rhetoric against protesters in the Chinese-ruled city, where security officials cited cases involving explosives that were “commonly used in terrorist attacks overseas” as a growing concern.
The proposed legislation, which could also see Chinese intelligence agencies set up bases in one of the world’s biggest financial hubs, saw thousands take to the streets in the city on Sunday to protest against the move.
The proposed law sent Hong Kong’s stock market tumbling last week and drew condemnation from Western governments.
Pro-democracy activists fear it would limit rights and freedoms guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” agreement made with Britain on Hong Kong’s 1997 return to Chinese rule.
But Mr Xie said the legislation would, in fact, strengthen it, and rights would be preserved.
“Do not be intimidated or misled, exploited by those with ulterior motives, and in particular, do not be a rumour-monger yourself, or join the anti-China forces in stigmatising or demonising the legislation,” he said, addressing “law-abiding citizens and foreign internationals who love Hong Kong”.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s security and police chiefs said terrorism was growing in the city.
“Terrorism is growing in the city, and activities which harm national security, such as ‘Hong Kong independence’, become more rampant,” Secretary for Security John Lee said in a statement.
“In just a few months, Hong Kong has changed from one of the safest cities in the world to a city shrouded in the shadow of violence,” he said, adding that national security laws were needed to safeguard the city’s prosperity and stability.
The police said they arrested more than 180 people on Sunday, when the authorities fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse anti-government protesters as unrest returned to Hong Kong after months of relative calm.
Police Commissioner Chris Tang said there have been 14 cases involving explosives “commonly used in terrorist attacks overseas” and five seizures of firearms and ammunition since protests began last June.
The draft legislation “will help combat the force of ‘Hong Kong independence’ and restore social order. Police fully support it”, Mr Tang said.