The Chinese parliament 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 it will ban dissent and destroy the promised autonomy and freedoms when the territory was returned to China in 1997.
The bill was unanimously approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress at a three-day meeting that began on Sunday, according to several media reports in Hong Kong, citing unidentified sources. The bill was not made public.
In her weekly news conference on Tuesday, Hong Kong's leader Carrie Lam declined to comment on the law.
The legislation will enter into force when it is published in Hong Kong – bypassing the legislature of the semi-autonomous territory itself – and should enter into force on July 1, the anniversary of the territory's return to Chinese rule.
Katrina Yu of Al Jazeera, reporting from Beijing, noted that the process has been accelerated.
"It is very symbolic that this law was passed just a day before the anniversary of Hong Kong's transfer from Britain to mainland China," she said. "It seems that Beijing is telling people that, in the end, it is China that is in charge in Hong Kong and Chinese leaders will do whatever they think is necessary to protect Hong Kong."
Clearer indication of the role of CE & HK Govt under the new Beijing order: Hong Kong authorities will be responsible only for minor administrative issues. All other photos are taken directly by Beijing. Get used to it. https://t.co/YMVJ8StOIBAdvertisement
– 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nearly a year of sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in the territory that began with an extradition project now withdrawn with the continent.
The security law gave renewed impetus to the protests, which calmed down when the coronavirus pandemic made it more difficult to hold mass meetings.
"The fact that the Chinese authorities passed this law without the people of Hong Kong being able to see it says a lot about their intentions," said Joshua Rosenzweig, head of the Chinese team at Amnesty International, in a statement. "Their goal is to rule Hong Kong through fear from this point on."
& # 39; End of Hong Kong & # 39;
A few hours after the law was passed, Joshua Wong, a leading activist, he announced that he was stepping down as leader of the pro-democracy group Demosisto and would continue his fight privately.
Writing on social media, he said the legislation marked "the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before. From now on, Hong Kong enters a new era of reign of terror. With broad powers and ill-defined laws, the city will change". in a secret police state. "
Wong described himself as a "main target" of the legislation. Colleague Nathan Law also said he would step down.
China said the legislation would cover acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and interference by foreign powers in the internal affairs of the territory. It will also allow intelligence agencies on the continent to settle in Hong Kong.
Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the state-owned Global Times, said on Twitter that the law passed and his biggest penalty was life imprisonment. State media are expected to publish more details of the legislation, which includes six chapters and 66 articles, on Tuesday afternoon.
I learned that the Hong Kong National Security Act was passed by China's top legislature this morning. People who saw the draft said the biggest penalty is life imprisonment. The law will take effect on July 1. Detailed official information will be released later today.
– Hu Xijin 胡锡 进 (@HuXijin_GT) June 30, 2020
The South China Morning Post said the law passed unanimously by 162 members of the standing committee, within 15 minutes of the meeting starting at 9 am (01:00 GMT). Only a few Hong Kong delegates to China's parliament saw the draft before it was approved, the newspaper added.
The demonstrations are usually held on July 1 and events are planned for this year, although the police have said that the demonstrations cannot happen because of the coronavirus.
Meeting posters continued to be shared on social media platforms on Tuesday. About 4,000 police officers are expected to be on hold.
Al Jazeera and news agencies