New Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung said separatist ideas are still being spread in Hong Kong through the media, documentaries, books and street stalls.
Speaking at the forum on the new law, the former police chief said the national security legislation has curbed violence and dangerous activities over the past year.
“The national security law deterred a lot of people who previously colluded with external forces. Some disbanded their groups and some fled overseas. The risk in national security has been reduced by a lot,” Tang said.
But this is not the time for complacency, he warned, adding officials must continue to strengthen education and enforce the law against pro-independence forces.
“Separatists have still yet to give up and use the media to encourage the infiltration of their ideas on Hong Kong independence,” Tang said.
“There are organizations advocating Hong Kong independence setting up street booths. Student unions will say rioters are righteous and people will use cultural arts to promote violence and independence under the guise of documentaries,” he said.
Some bookstores even sell books that advocate confrontation against the government to “corrupt teenagers with bad morals,” he said.
He also cited “domestic terrorism” as he was worried that people are being misled while some are still glorifying the Causeway Bay attack on July 1 when a police officer was stabbed in his left lung by a 50-year-old who later committed suicide.
“We have to strongly condemn people who shift the blame to the police,” he said.
In the same forum, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said: “The national security law only targets a small proportion of people who endanger national security. It has not hampered any citizens’ human rights and freedoms.”
She said the judiciary remains independent and the city continues to be an international financial center.
She also brushed aside criticism that the authorities are suppressing protests.
“We all know it is because of Covid-19 that public assemblies could not be held.” Lam said.
Former director of public prosecutions Grenville Cross said it is unclear whether mitigating factors used in common law are applicable in national security cases, including no criminal record, old age or mental disorder.
According to the security law, a trial court can hand down lighter sentences if the accused voluntarily discontinued their involvement, voluntarily surrendered, or reported an offence committed by others.
Cross said it is arguable that the court cannot take into account other mitigation factors used in common law, given that the mainland drafters of the national security law have only singled out the three factors as a basis for sentence reduction.
However, he “suspects that the courts will try to find a way of ensuring that other mitigating factors can still be taken into account, albeit to a lesser extent.”