The Deputy Secretary for Justice, Horace Cheung, said on Sunday that the administration is in a better position than the courts to decide what constitutes national security.
He made the comment as the government seeks to amend the Legal Practitioners Ordinance to allow the Chief Executive, rather than the courts, to decide whether a foreign lawyer without full qualifications to practice in Hong Kong can take part in national security cases.
The proposed changes come after Beijing passed an interpretation of the security law in December, at the request of the SAR government after local courts repeatedly rejected its bid to block a British barrister from representing former media tycoon Jimmy Lai in his national security trial.
The Department of Justice put forward amendments that would require the courts to obtain the approval of Hong Kong's leader before a foreign lawyer is allowed to take on a national security case.
The Secretary for Justice, Paul Lam, said on Friday that when applications were considered, the Chief Executive should determine if the case involved national security elements.
When asked whether the changes would result in a de facto blanket ban on overseas lawyers, his deputy - Cheung - said giving the CE relevant powers is more in line with the interpretation.
"As we all know, when we talk about national security in the world's context, it's not just about military security. It often involves many other aspects, no matter whether it's technology, culture or resources security," he told reporters after attending a TVB programme.
"These issues often bring national security risks to the country. So when handling this, in deciding what is national security, the CE, the administration is more ideal, more suitable to identify what problems involve national security."
Despite the changes, Cheung said Hong Kong is still better than "the main overseas jursidictions", because only the SAR has an existing ad hoc admission system for overseas lawyers.
He stressed the system will still be available for litigants in civil and criminal proceedings that have nothing to do with national security.
He reiterated that the proposed changes to the law can also guard against abuse. As an example, he said the government had heard concerns that a defendant could prolong and abuse the judicial process by repeatedly changing their overseas legal representation.
On a different topic, Cheung said his recent duty trips to Europe and Thailand had been fruitful as different arbitration organisations had expressed interest in setting up centres in Hong Kong, and that they plan to hold events in the SAR in the coming year or so.