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Chris Tang: Hong Kong is peaceful again

THE YEAR 2019 was a difficult period for Hong Kong, with violent unrest increasing from June onwards. Into this nightmare scenario stepped Hong Kong’s new police chief Chris Tang Ping-keung, who took the role at the height of the violence in November of 2019.

He was immediately criticized by a hostile foreign media but became a hero to many Hong Kong people when he attended dangerous front-line incidents.

His courage was underlined after he personally turned up at district council meetings where he was wildly abused by hostile anti-China activists. He kept his cool and answered questions politely, however much his hosts shouted at him.


Almost five years have passed since those tough days, during which the city’s new police chief gave himself a simple mission: return Hong Kong to being a safe, violence-free place. Things are going well in that direction. While phone and internet deception have risen here, as in other places, the streets feel safe again—and the statistics say they are.

The same cannot be said for the places where his critics live. London’s crime rate is now ten times higher than that of Hong Kong, said Chris Tang, who has now been elevated to Secretary of Security.

In contrast, Hong Kong has quickly returned to being a super-safe city, with a similar crime rate to Singapore. Residents can walk around freely and without fear, “any time of day”, he said in an interview with Nick Chan Hiu-fung on Friday Beyond Spotlights.

That’s important for families, but it’s also vital for businesses. “I think security and stability is the basis for economic development. I think no one will invest in a war zone, right?” he added.

It was clear that this was a reference to the protests five years ago, when there was huge damage to shops, offices and restaurants, 90 per cent of Hong Kong’s MTR stations were attacked, and protesters even set fire to one of the iconic lion statues outside the HSBC headquarters.

“So when you look back at 2019, you know, where petrol bombs are flying all around, and the shops are being vandalized and being even set afire, I don’t think any people will enjoy doing business in this kind of environment,” Tang said.


While western media has been printing very negative allegations about Hong Kong’s security laws, in particular Article 23, international business people in the city have been largely positive, he said. “In my interaction with them I would say that most of them do support Article 23,” Tang told Chan.

The security minister admitted that some foreign consul-generals had raised concerns, but then they had to be negative for political reasons. Yet, he added, even those people had to admit that Hong Kong had a constitutional responsibility to enact Article 23.

The number comes from the fact that it was number 23 in a list of laws, drawn up in the British colonial era, considered necessary for a community. Hong Kong had no choice but to pass the law.

When asked to show a memorable memento, Chris Tang brought a “teddy bear” version of himself used in a Hong Kong police video.

The city’s patience about doing so seems to have paid off. Members of the public, horrified by the 2019 violence and unhappy about solid evidence of foreign interference, known as “hybrid warfare” or “color revolution”, have been highly supportive of the new law.

“In the consultation result, you know, we have about, over 13,000 responses, right? And 98.6% do support the enactment of article 23,” Tang said.


This is not to say that there had been no legitimate concerns. Some business people had raised very specific worries, such as the definition of “state secrets” and “external interference”.

But the Secretary for Security said he assured them that the focus was not on who people were interacting with, but on what they were doing. “I’m sure everyone doing business here, they come here just to do business. They’ve not come here to endanger National Security,” he said.

Another issue is that some journalists imply that Hong Kong security laws are vague so that they can be interpreted widely. But they have apparently not actually looked at the law, which clearly defines the terms used. “It’s one of the clearest definitions in the world,” Tang said.

Objective analysis provides plenty of evidence to back him up. The UK and the US, for example, have multiple long, complex national security laws, some dating back centuries, filled with baffling clauses.

[You can watch the whole interview below, or scroll down to read more of this article.]


He also pointed out that Hong Kong authorities have been flexible in drawing it up. When there was criticism that the law did not provide enough of a “public interest” definition, the proposed law was amended to include that.

“During the consultation period, we have listened to opinions, and also during the bill’s committee stage, we also receive comments from the members—so eventually we do have such a provision,” he said.

No one’s going to be locked up for legitimate criticism, he says. Again, the evidence indicates he is correct. Hong Kong news websites and online discussion boards frequently criticize the government and there has been no change.

Freedom of assembly, freedom of press, freedom of publication, are all protected, Tang pointed out.


Virtually all modern communities have a security law, and it can be argued that Hong Kong needs one more than other places, because it is so obviously a target for hybrid warfare – the financing and training of anti-government activists and co-opting of the media against the government.

“We have to face off a real scenario like what happened in 2019. You know, the failed attempt of a Hong Kong version of a color revolution,” he said. “You have to prevent such things happening again.”

On that count, the vast majority of Hong Kong people will likely agree with him.

Nick Chan’s interview with Police Commissioner Chris Tang took place outdoors—and the backdrop of happy families strolling along the green, waterfront areas, may have provided the most powerful argument of all.

All images from Friday Beyond Spotlights.

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