Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Thursday the government will kick off public consultations on introducing Basic Law Article 23 national security legislation in the next six months.
But she said she wasn't optimistic that the legislation would be passed before the end of this administration's term on June 30, 2022, as it involves public consultation, drafting of the bill and other legislative procedures.
"I just don't see how that could be accomplished," Lam told a press conference reviewing her work in 2021 and sharing her priorities for next year. "But I have heard some Legco members-elect expressing the desire that they would cooperate in order to expedite the passing of the legislation. I certainly welcome that but I would still adhere importance to a more thorough discussion in society before we enact the law."
She said while the national security law has been in force for a year and a half now, some national security offences still require local legislation.
On plans to restructure the government, which she mentioned in her policy address in October, Lam said she will announce details next month.
The chief executive added that Hong Kong is in "a much better state" now than four years ago.
"I think Hong Kong in 2021 is now in a much better state than when I took office in July 2017," Lam said, pointing out that the SAR is back on the right track of One Country, Two Systems.
She said the legislature needs to be comprised of patriots, or national security could be endangered. "On that particular score, Hong Kong is now a much safer place."
Lam also refuted suggestions that authorities were cracking down on media critical of the government, a day after national security police arrested seven people linked to Stand News over allegations of sedition.
"These actions have nothing to do with so-called suppression of press freedom or democracy as some would put it. Nobody should associate law enforcement actions by the police with the freedom of the press," she said.
"Journalism is not sedition. But seditious acts and activities and inciting other people through public acts and activities could not be condoned under the guise of news reporting."
The CE added that foreign politicians are trampling on the rule of law when they ask for the release of those arrested.
Lam remained tight-lipped on whether she would seek a second term in office, saying there's still some time before nomination for the top job starts on February 15.