The law is seen as the most significant erosion of Hong Kong-style British rule and autonomy to date
China passed a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, prompting fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in semi-autonomous territory.
Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s only representative on the standing committee of the National People’s Congress, confirmed in an interview with reporters Tuesday that the law was passed. He said the punishments would not include the death penalty, but gave no further details, as to whether the law could be applied retroactively.
“We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from causing problems,” said Tam in the interview. “Don’t let Hong Kong be used as a tool to divide the country.”
The Morning China Morning Post and public broadcaster RTHK, both citing unidentified sources, said the standing committee unanimously approved the law on Tuesday.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declined to comment earlier in the day, while the standing committee was still meeting.
She said that, once the law was passed, “the Hong Kong government will announce and enact it for implementation here, and then my senior officials and I will do our best to answer everyone’s questions, especially regarding the application of this national law. . “
The legislation aims to curb subversive, secessionist and terrorist activities, as well as foreign intervention in city affairs. There followed months of anti-government protests that at times fell into violence in Hong Kong last year.
Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, as well as Agnes Chow and Nathan Law, released statements on Facebook indicating that they would withdraw from the pro-democracy organization Demosisto.
Wong said “worrying about life and security” has become a real problem and that no one will be able to predict the repercussions of the law, whether it is extradited to China or facing imprisonment for 10 years or more.
More than 100 protesters gathered at a luxury mall in Hong Kong’s central business district, chanting slogans like “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now”, with several holding an “Hong Kong Independence” flag, as well as posters condemning the Hong Kong law. National security.
Later, the police cordoned off different areas of the mall, including the lobby, arresting and searching several protesters.
The law met strong opposition in Hong Kong and condemnation of the former British colonial ruler, the USA, the European Union and others.
In Tokyo, senior government officials classified the legislation as “regrettable”, saying it undermined the credibility of the “one country, two systems” formula adopted in the 1997 transfer of Hong Kong from Britain to China to preserve its broad freedoms .
“We will continue to work with the countries involved to deal with this problem in an appropriate manner,” Yoshihide Suga, the cabinet’s chief secretary, told a news conference.
In Taipei, Taiwan’s cabinet said in a statement that the new law would “severely impact” freedom, democracy and human rights in the Asian financial center, and that Taiwan would continue to offer aid to its people.
Human rights groups have warned that the law could target opposition politicians deemed insufficiently loyal to Beijing for arrests or disqualification for running in the September elections for the Legislative Council.
Before the announcement, the Trump administration said on Monday that it will ban defense exports to Hong Kong and will soon require licenses to sell items to Hong Kong that have civilian and military uses.
US moves to impose sanctions
The government warned for weeks that if the law were passed, it would take steps to end the special US commercial and commercial preferences that Hong Kong has enjoyed since returning to the Chinese regime in 1997.
“The United States is forced to take this step to protect US national security,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or mainland China. We cannot risk that these items fall into the hands of the People’s Liberation Army, whose main objective is to maintain the dictatorship of the Communist Party (in power). by any means necessary. “
The US Senate unanimously passed a bill unanimously on Thursday to impose sanctions on companies and individuals – including the police – that undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy or restrict the freedoms promised to city dwellers.
Britain says it could offer residence and possible citizenship to some three million of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people.
China denounced all of these measures as major interference in its internal affairs, and Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that Beijing had decided to retaliate with visa restrictions on “American officials who are leaving badly on issues related to Hong Kong “.
“The US attempt to prevent China from promoting Hong Kong’s national security legislation through so-called sanctions will never be successful,” Zhao told reporters in a daily interview.
China decided to use the National People’s Congress to enact legislation after opposition in the Hong Kong Legislative Council and in society as a whole, making it impossible to pass it at the local level.
The law is seen as the most significant erosion of Hong Kong’s British-style rule of law to date and the high degree of autonomy that China has promised that Hong Kong would enjoy at least until 2047 under the “one country, two systems” structure.
Passing the legislation will also allow the central government of Beijing to also establish a national security office in Hong Kong to collect and analyze information and deal with national security-related criminal cases.