China's President Xi Jinping (C), Premier Li Keqiang (R) and Chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Wang Yang (L) vote on a proposal to draft a Hong Kong security law during the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 28, 2020. China's rubber-stamp parliament endorsed plans on May 28 to impose a national security law on Hong Kong that critics say will destroy the city's autonomy.
AFP/Nicolas Asfouri
China parliament adopts plan to impose security law on Hong Kong
(Agence France-Presse) - May 28, 2020 - 3:58pm

BEIJING, China — 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. 

Over 2,800 members of the National People's Congress (NPC) 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. 

The announcement of the result was met with sustained and loud applause by delegates.

Only one person opposed the proposal, while six abstained.

The law would be directly imposed by mainland authorities, effectively bypassing Hong Kong’s government.

According to a draft of the proposal released last week, the law would allow mainland security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong.

The NPC Standing Committee –- which 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.

The United States Wednesday 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.

China has made Hong Kong’s national security law a top priority in this year’s annual parliamentary sessions after huge pro-democracy protests rocked the financial hub for seven months last year.

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.

NPC Standing Committee Vice Chairman Wang Chen said last week that Hong Kong's delays in implementing its own security law had forced the Chinese leadership to take action.

"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," Wang said.

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. 

Mainland authorities frequently use the national security law to detain activists, journalists and lawyers under the pretext of "state subversion" -- in some cases for several years without trial or access to lawyers. 

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.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 3, 2020 - 3:07pm

Millions march in Hong Kong in a powerful rebuke of an extradition law feared to expose them to China's capricious justice system.

July 3, 2020 - 3:07pm

The state media says China appointed a hardliner involved in a clamp down against protests on the mainland as the head of Hong Kong's new security agency, days after imposing a sweeping law on the territory that criminalises dissent.

Zheng Yanxiong will take the helm of the controversial national security agency, a new office set up under the legislation that empowers mainland security agents to operate inside Hong Kong openly for the first time, unbound by the city's laws. — AFP

July 3, 2020 - 1:39pm

Western nations are moving to offer millions of Hong Kongers refuge after Beijing passed draconian security laws designed to choke the city's democracy movement -- but many obstacles prevent a mass exodus.

The United Kingdom is leading allies in offering nearly half the city's 7.5 million people a potential pathway to British citizenship, with strong indications Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States may also offer some form of asylum. — AFP

July 2, 2020 - 3:26pm

China warned Britain on Thursday it could retaliate with "corresponding measures" for London's decision to extend a broader path to citizenship for the residents of Hong Kong.

Britain's offer came in response to a sweeping new security law that China unveiled for the former British territory this week.

Hong Kong was under UK jurisdiction until its handover to China in 1997 with a guarantee that Beijing would preserve the city's judicial and legislative autonomy for 50 years. — AFP

July 2, 2020 - 1:27pm

Australia is actively considering providing safe haven to Hong Kong residents in response to China's sweeping new security law, it said Thursday, a move likely to further inflame tensions with Beijing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the situation in Hong Kong was "very concerning" and his government was "very actively" considering proposals to welcome in residents of the former British territory.

Asked by a reporter whether Australia could extend an offer of safe haven, Morrison responded "yes." — AFP

July 1, 2020 - 6:45pm

Hong Kong police make the first arrests under Beijing's new national security law as the anniversary of the city's handover to China was met by thousands defying a ban on protests.

Police deploy water cannon, pepper spray and tear gas throughout the afternoon, arresting more than 180 people, seven of them for breaching the new national security law. 

The confrontations came a day after China imposed its controversial legislation on the restless city, a historic move decried by many Western governments as an unprecedented assault on the finance hub's liberties and autonomy. — AFP

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