China’s rubber-stamp parliament endorsed plans Thursday to impose a national security law on Hong Kong that critics say will destroy the city’s autonomy.
More than 2,000 members of National Congress Party (NCP) voted overwhelmingly in favour of the proposal to draft the law, which would punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and acts that endanger national security.
Only one person opposed the proposal, while six abstained.
However the law would be directly imposed by mainland authorities, effectively bypassing Hong Kong’s government.
As per the draft of the proposal released last week, the law would allow mainland security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong.
The standing committee of NCP is likely to meet next in June will now be tasked with formulating the legislation, which Beijing has said must be done “at an early date”.
The plans have prompted condemnation from foreign governments, investors and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, who say China is eradicating the freedoms it promised the city under its 1997 handover agreement with Britain.
On Wednesday United States revoked its special status for Hong Kong, alleging the city was no longer autonomous from Beijing, paving the way for future sanctions and the removal of trading privileges in the financial hub.
In this year’s China has made Hong Kong’s national security law a top priority and annual parliamentary sessions after huge pro-democracy protests rocked the financial hub for seven months last year.
By last week’s announcement that China would impose the new security law triggered further protests in Hong Kong, although a huge police presence prevented massive gatherings.
Wang Chen NPC Standing Committee Vice Chairman said that Hong Kong’s delays in implementing its own security law had forced the Chinese leadership to take action.
Wang Chen also said “More than 20 years after Hong Kong’s return, however, relevant laws are yet to materialise due to the sabotage and obstruction by those trying to sow trouble in Hong Kong and China at large, as well as external hostile forces,”
China has not only refused to address protesters’ concerns, but also routinely attacked them as “anti-China chaotic forces” secretly backed by Western powers, bent on destroying the city and seeking full independence from the mainland.
To detain activists, journalists and lawyers under the pretext of “state subversion” Mainland authorities frequently use the national security law.
Several critical details about the law have yet to be clarified — including how it will define crimes as well as “foreign interference”, whether offenders would be tried in Hong Kong or China, whether Hong Kong’s foreign judges will be allowed to decide national security cases, and whether the law would be retroactive.
-Davinder Panesar, NMTV News