China’s parliament has passed controversial national security legislation for Hong Kong that Beijing says is necessary to deal with issues of terrorism, subversion and foreign interference but critics say will outlaw dissent and destroy the autonomy and freedoms promised when the territory was returned to China in 1997.
The bill was passed unanimously by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress at a three-day meeting that began on Sunday, according to multiple media reports in Hong Kong citing unnamed sources. The draft of the law has not been made public.
At her weekly news conference on Tuesday, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam declined to comment on the law.
The legislation will come into effect when it is gazetted in Hong Kong, and is expected to be in force by July 1, the anniversary of the territory’s return to Chinese rule.
Clearest indication of the role for the CE & HK Govt under Beijing’s new order: HK authorities will be responsible for minor administrative matters only. All other shots are called by Beijing directly. Get used to this. https://t.co/YMVJ8StOIB
— Antony Dapiran (@antd) June 30, 2020
China announced its plan to impose the legislation on the eve of the National People’s Congress last month, after nearly a year of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in the territory.
The decision gave renewed momentum to the protests, which had calmed as the coronavirus pandemic prevented mass gatherings.
“The fact that the Chinese authorities have passed this law without the people of Hong Kong being able to see it tells you a lot about their intentions,” Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Amnesty International’s China team, said in a statement. “Their aim is to govern Hong Kong through fear from this point forward.”
‘End of Hong Kong’
A few hours after it emerged the law had been passed, Joshua Wong, a leading activist, announced he was resigning as leader of pro-democracy group Demosisto.
Writing on social media, he said the legislation marked “the end of the Hong Kong that the world knew before. From now on, Hong Kong enters a new era of reign of terror. With sweeping powers and ill-defined law the city will turn into a secret police state.”
He described himself as a “prime target” of the legislation.
China has said the legislation will cover acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and interference by foreign powers in the territory’s internal affairs. It will also allow mainland intelligence agencies to establish themselves in Hong Kong.
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, said on Twitter that the law had been passed and its heaviest penalty was life imprisonment.
I’ve learned the National Security Law for Hong Kong has been passed by China’s top legislature this morning. People who saw the draft said the heaviest penalty is life imprisonment. The law will take effect on July 1. Official detailed information will be released later today.
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) June 30, 2020
The South China Morning Post said the law was approved unanimously by the standing committee’s 162 members, within 15 minutes of the meeting starting at 9am (01:00 GMT). Only a handful of Hong Kong’s delegates to China’s parliament saw the draft before it was passed, the paper added.
Demonstrations are usually held on July 1 and events are planned this year. Posters for gatherings continued to be shared across social media platforms on Tuesday.