Home / World / China approves Hong Kong’s extensive national security law: report

China approves Hong Kong’s extensive national security law: report

Beijing’s top legislative body, the National People’s Congress (NPC), unanimously passed the law on Tuesday morning local time, circumventing the Hong Kong legislature, through a rarely used constitutional backdoor, according to Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK , citing unnamed sources.

The Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported that the law would criminalize crimes such as secession, subversion of the central Chinese government, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

A bill had not been made public before it passed, which means that most people in Hong Kong have not seen the details of a law that will now govern their lives.

The passage of the law has not been officially confirmed and the details remain unclear. But the RTHK reports that the maximum sentence for crimes under the law will be “much higher”

; than 10 years in prison.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam declined to comment on the progress of the bill in its weekly press conference on Tuesday morning, saying it would be “inappropriate” to answer questions while the NPC meeting is still ongoing.

The legislation has been widely criticized by Hong Kong opposition legislators, human rights groups and politicians around the world, with many claiming that the law will strengthen Beijing’s direct control over the semi-autonomous city. Many fear that the law could be used to target political dissidents, a fear that stems from the Chinese judicial tradition.

Approval of the law comes a day before July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British colonial rule to China in 1997. It has become an annual day of protests in the city, but for the first time since the police he did not allow protesters to organize peaceful demonstrations.

“One country, two systems”

The passage of the law is expected to fuel further anger and protests in the city, which has been shaken by more than six months of increasingly violent anti-government unrest last year.

Opponents of the law say it marks the end of “one country, two systems” – a principle that Hong Kong has kept democracy and civil liberties limited since it came under Chinese control.

Basically, those freedoms include the right to assembly, a free press and an independent judiciary, rights that are not enjoyed on the Chinese mainland.

Chinese officials and state media defended the law as vital to protecting national security in the wake of last year’s protests and for a 17-year failure by the Hong Kong government to pass similar legislation, since the latest effort met with mass protests in 2003.

In a draft law revealed by the Chinese state media Xinhua on June 22, the law will allow officials from mainland China to operate in Hong Kong for the first time and give Beijing the power to bypass local laws.

In a statement last week, Lam said the law would guarantee “Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability” and that “it would only target an extremely small minority of people.” He said the proposed bill was “in line with the rule of law” and with the “rights and freedoms that are applicable in Hong Kong under the Basic Law and relevant international alliances”.

According to the plan, the law will allow Beijing to set up a national security office, run by the mainland security services to oversee local authorities in overseeing the law. A national security commission will also be established, with an adviser appointed in Beijing who will operate under “central government supervision”.

In addition, the top Hong Kong official, the CEO, will choose which judges will hear national security cases, while mainland Chinese authorities will be able to “exercise jurisdiction” over cases in special circumstances – a controversial clause that raises the prospect that some crimes in Hong Kong could lead to evidence on the mainland.

Ultimately, the draft makes it clear that national security law goes beyond local laws. In case of conflict with the current Hong Kong law, the national security law will prevail.

Reaction from Hong Kong and around the world

Many in the city have denounced the lack of transparency on the law. In a letter to the Hong Kong government, Philip Dykes, president of the Hong Kong Bar Association, said that the secrecy of the law is “truly extraordinary” and called on the government to clarify how citizens’ minimum rights will be guaranteed.
Joshua Wong, an activist who helped lead massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2014 said on Twitter which “marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before”.

He said Hong Kong “will continue to fight for our freedoms and democracy for the next generations of the city. When justice fails, our struggle will continue.”

China will impose tit-to-tat visa restrictions on US officials in Hong Kong

Human rights group Amnesty International said the legislation “poses the greatest threat to human rights in the city’s recent history.”

“From now on, China will have the power to impose its own laws on any criminal suspect it chooses,” said Amnesty International’s Chinese team leader Joshua Rosenzweig.

“The speed and secrecy with which China has promoted this legislation intensifies the fear that Beijing has calculated computatively a weapon of repression to use against government critics, including people who are simply expressing their opinions or protesting peacefully”, he said.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced an end to exports of US-born defense equipment to Hong Kong. Pompeo said the move was necessary to protect American national security as tensions between the United States and China continue to rise.

“As Beijing advances with the approval of the national security law, the United States today will end exports of US-born defense equipment and adopt the same restrictions on US defense and dual-use technologies in Hong Kong as for China, “said Pompey. “The United States is forced to take this action to protect the national security of the United States. We can no longer distinguish between exporting controlled items to Hong Kong or mainland China.”

This is the first action that the United States government has taken to reverse the special trade relationship between the United States and Hong Kong, following the determination that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from China due to the imposition of the national security law at Beijing.

This is a developing story

CNN’s James Griffiths, Jadyn Sham, Nectar Gan and Jessie Yeung contributed to reporting and writing.

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