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CE leaves open possibility of emergency powers

2019-08-27 HKT 16:01
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  • The Emergency Regulations Ordinance, if used, would give the CE  sweeping powers to authorise arrests, censor media and enact new laws. File Photo: AP
    The Emergency Regulations Ordinance, if used, would give the CE sweeping powers to authorise arrests, censor media and enact new laws. File Photo: AP
The Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, is leaving open the possibility that her administration could invoke sweeping emergency powers to deal with the political crisis over the ongoing protests, saying the government is duty-bound to look at all options.

A Sing Tao Daily article on Tuesday had quoted government sources as saying the administration thinks invoking a rarely-used colonial-era law is a feasible way to fight back against the escalating anti-government protests.

The Emergency Regulations Ordinance – if used – would give the Chief Executive sweeping powers from authorising arrests, detentions, deportations and punishment, to censoring the press, seizing property, changing laws or enacting new ones, along with total control of all transport, manufacturing and trade in the city.

This is a local law that's different from Beijing's prerogative under Article 18 of the Basic Law to declare an emergency and apply what national laws it sees fit here.

The CE did not directly address questions about this when she spoke to reporters ahead of her latest Executive Council meeting, saying only that the government is duty-bound to examine all local laws which can stop the violence and social unrest.

But she stressed that the government has things well in hand despite the escalation of violence during protests this past weekend.

"I think a responsible Chief Executive at this point in time should continue to hold the fort and do her utmost to restore law and order in Hong Kong. And I wouldn't say that my government has lost control. Day in day out we are not only supporting the law enforcement bodies, we are also acting responsibly to deal with other issues," she said.

Pan-democrats quickly warned that invoking the law would spell doom for city, saying its economy and international status would be destroyed.

The camp’s convenor, Council Front legislator Claudia Mo, said the ordinance would turn Carrie Lam’s administration from an ‘authoritarian government’ into a ‘dictatorship’.

“That ordinance would give her sweeping, unlimited powers altogether. She could do anything she wants. What’s that going to make of Hong Kong? She will practically turn Hong Kong into a coffin and she would be hammering in her nails!” Mo said.

Democratic Party lawmaker James To further warned that invoking the law would only backfire.

He said the ordinance is no different from martial law, adding that if all protests are banned, even peaceful and rational people will strongly oppose the government.

New People’s Party chairwoman and Executive Councilor Regina Ip said the government has always been aware that this ordinance could confer it with broad powers. However, she said there are risks associated with the invoking of this ordinance as no one knows what its impact would be.

She said, for example, some people suggested that an emergency law could be introduced to ban protesters from covering their faces. But she says this would likely result in even more people covering their faces.

But a member of National People’s Congress Standing Committee, Tam Yiu-chung, said stemming violence in society is one of the government’s priorities now. He said the CE should study whatever ways she’s legally allowed to tackle the situation.

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Last updated: 2019-08-27 HKT 17:00