Chinese parliament passes Hong Kong national security law

A screen shows the results of the vote on the national security legislation for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region at the closing session of the National People's Congress in Beijing, May 28, 2020. (Reuters Photo)

China's parliament adopted a controversial national security law for Hong Kong on Thursday, in a move expected to spur protests in the financial hub and heightened tensions with the United States.

The law bypasses Hong Kong's internal legislature to punish acts seen as endangering national security and subverting state power in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Beijing may also set up outposts of mainland agencies in Hong Kong to curb violent protests and what it describes as interference by foreign countries.

The law passed at the end of the annual parliamentary session, the National People's Congress (NPC), with 2,878 votes for, one vote against and six abstentions.

The NPC is a largely ceremonial body, which has never rejected a proposal put before it. Policy decisions are made by the higher echelons of the ruling Communist Party, chiefly by the Politburo group of top leaders.

In the last week the law has spurred renewed anger and protests in Hong Kong, a former British colony where people have enjoyed a degree of freedom not seen on the mainland. Critics and rights activists fear the law will be used to quash political dissent.

The law could significantly change the US' relations with Hong Kong and the government in Beijing.

During the tenure of US President Donald Trump, the two sides have already been at odds over many issues including trade, the treatment of telecoms giant Huawei, and most recently the origins of the global coronavirus outbreak.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that Hong Kong cannot be considered to have a high degree of autonomy from China once the law is passed and therefore will not continue to warrant special treatment under US law.

Washington mandated last year that the secretary of state annually reaffirm if Hong Kong is autonomous in order to maintain the city's special trade status with the US.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong on Thursday called on the international community to stand up against the national security law, which he said threatens to dismantle Hong Kong's reputation as Asia's leading financial hub.

Wong said sanctions against Hong Kong would be a "tragic" but necessary step in the wake of Beijing's adoption of the law.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Sunday the national security law had become a "pressing priority" for China due to "excessive" foreign interference in Hong Kong and due to the public's obstruction of the local government's attempts to pass its own laws.

Hong Kong was rocked by massive protests last year over a legislative bill that would have allowed for the extradition of criminal suspects to mainland China. The city's chief executive eventually killed the bill after the protests turned violent.

Hong Kong was promised an independent legal system until 2047 under the "one country, two systems" agreement established between China and Britain upon Britain's handing over of the former colony to Beijing.

Critics expect unrest to grow after the passing of the national security law.

Contact Us