Hong Kong authorities may hire mainland staff to join police in enforcing security law

The Committee for Safeguarding National Security. Photo: Hong Kong Government
The Committee for Safeguarding National Security. Photo: Hong Kong Government

Hong Kong authorities say that they would consider recruiting employees from mainland China to join the police department that oversees the enforcement of the national security law.

In an interview with Sing Tao Daily published Friday, Secretary for Security John Lee said the newly established team, called the National Security Department of the Hong Kong Police Force, could employ mainland staff if there is an “actual need.”

“If we’re dealing with state-level opponents and need to seek assistance, for example on technology, there would be the possibility [of hiring mainland staff],” Lee said.

He did not elaborate on how this recruitment would be done or why it would not be possible to hire locally for technology assignments.

Edwina Lau, deputy commissioner of the police’s national security department, said earlier that the force would “recruit qualified professionals and technical personnel from outside Hong Kong to provide assistance in the performance of duties for safeguarding national security,” according to Chinese state media CGTN.

On Monday, authorities handed sweeping powers to the police department that will allow authorities to freeze the assets of suspects, confiscate their travel documents, and conduct warrantless searches “in urgent situations.”

Police will also be able to require Internet providers to take down messages deemed to undermine state safety, and can also restrict a suspect’s access to online platforms.

Read more: ‘You can break the law without intending to”: Countries update Hong Kong travel advice over national security legislation

Despite concerns that such acts infringe on personal privacy, Lee defended the authorization of powers, emphasizing that citizens’ human rights and freedom would be “guaranteed” under the law.

The national security law came into force in Hong Kong on the eve of July 1, the anniversary of the city’s handover to mainland China. The far-reaching legislation will allow authorities to suppress anti-government voices, critics say—an effect that inarguably is already playing out. Earlier this week, pro-democracy books written by political activists were withheld in public libraries for “review.”

On Wednesday morning, an inauguration ceremony was held to mark the transformation of a Causeway Bay hotel into the temporary headquarters of the Office for Safeguarding National Security. The hotel is located near Victoria Park, a common starting point for protest marches moving west.

The national security law criminalizes secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, and foreign collusion with penalties as severe as life imprisonment.

10 people were arrested on suspicion of violating the law during the July 1 protests, including a man suspected of stabbing a police officer.

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