Security Secretary John Lee wouldn't – or couldn't – say on Wednesday whether suspects arrested under Hong Kong's looming national security law could be detained indefinitely without being charged.
He also failed to confirm the accuracy of a media report which said special detention centres will be set up to hold suspects in national security cases after their arrest.
With Beijing widely expected to implement the new law in Hong Kong in less than a week, Lee was asked by RTHK whether the authorities were establishing such holding centres to detain suspects for as long as they see fit.
"So the preparation work is to ensure that [police] will be able to discharge their functions and responsibilities. As to how we will carry out those functions and responsibilities, first of all, we will have to wait for the details of the provisions," was the reply he gave.
The secretary told reporters at Legco that enforcement work relating to the new legislation will comply with existing laws and that human rights will be protected.
But a subsequent comment implied that police may have to change their practices in order to be able to enforce the new law, depending on what it entails.
"When we implement what will be required, we will basically be doing what the law actually asks us to do. If the current practice satisfies the requirement, then we will be basically carrying out our duties in that way."
The national security law for the SAR will cover the offences of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. Beijing is expected to retain the right to put suspects in some cases on trial on the mainland.