Hong Kong police request user data from WhatsApp; ask help from Beijing for NSL enforcement

Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp messaging service said on Monday it had “paused” processing law enforcement requests for user data in Hong Kong.

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CCP Media: Hong Kong asks help from Beijing for enforcing National Security Law

‘We don’t have staff, equipment, network; we need central government help on this’

Now that the National Security Law has taken effect in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the question of how it will be implemented arises. Many Hong Kong leaders hold that close cooperation between the SAR and the central government will be necessary for the law to be effective.

Maria Tam Wai-chu, deputy director of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said that the SAR doesn’t have the experience necessary for dealing with security and intelligence matters.

The training that exists, she said, dates to the final days before Hong Kong returned to China in 1997, when its police received instructions from British officers who oversaw intelligence operations in the city. The Hong Kong intelligence unit was dissolved once Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong was restored in 1997.

“We don’t have the staff, the equipment or the network. We need the central government’s help on this,” Tam said, urging that the Committee for Safeguarding National Security takes up the matter.

The National Security Law, which came into force on June 30, requires the creation of a national security committee under the chairmanship of the SAR’s chief executive. Other members of the committee will include the city’s No 2-the chief secretary for administration-and other officials, such as the financial secretary, secretary for justice, secretary for security and commissioner of police.

Under the law, the central government will set up an office with the mandate of safeguarding national security in the SAR. The office will have multiple responsibilities including overseeing how the law is implemented, providing guidance for local officials and coordinating and supporting the SAR in safeguarding national security.

The primary responsibility of implementing the law within the city’s boundaries remains with the local authorities. The central government retains jurisdiction over national security matters in some specified circumstances.

Local responsibility

Tian Feilong, executive director of the Center for Legal Studies in One Country Two Systems at Beihang University in Beijing, said the arrangement affirms the central government’s commitment to the principle. Tian said that by placing primary responsibility in the hands of local authorities, the central government has shown its faith that Hong Kong will uphold the law.

The legal scholar called the national security legislation for Hong Kong “unprecedented” under the “one country, two systems” principle and said the new arrangements will also bring challenges for the HKSAR government as the city takes on its responsibilities.

Tian said successful implementation of the new law will require closer cooperation between the SAR’s government and the central government’s Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong. He cited two areas in particular: staff training and equipment supplies.

“It requires mutual trust and mutual support,” Tian said, adding that the central government’s national security office should provide support to the local government and, correspondingly, personnel assigned from the mainland should familiarize themselves with Hong Kong’s common law principles and legal system.

Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, emphasized that close cooperation between Beijing and Hong Kong will also ensure that those who jeopardize national security cannot seek refuge in Hong Kong.

Henry Ho Kin-chung, chairman of the Hong Kong-based think tank One Country Two Systems Youth Forum and a former assistant to the Secretary for Development, called for training for the city’s judiciary and legal sectors so that the law will be effectively implemented.

The SAR government announced on Friday it had established a new prosecution unit in the Department of Justice, as required by the law, and a panel of six magistrates has been designated to handle cases under the National Security Law.

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