China passes sweeping Hong Kong security law, heralding new authoritarian era

From WWW.REUTERS.COM

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing unveiled its national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday, punishing crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.

China’s parliament passed the tailor-made legislation earlier in the day, giving Beijing sweeping powers over its implementation and setting the stage for the most radical changes in decades to the global financial hub’s way of life.

Beijing had kept full details of the law shrouded in secrecy, giving Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people no time to digest the complex legislation before it entered into force at 11.00 pm (1500 GMT).

The timing was seen as a symbolic humiliation for Britain, coming just an hour before the 23rd anniversary of when Hong Kong’s last colonial governor, Chris Patten, a staunch critic of the law, tearfully handed back Hong Kong to Chinese rule.

Amid fears the law will crush the city’s freedoms, prominent activist Joshua Wong’s Demosisto and other pro-democracy groups said they would dissolve.

“It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before,” Wong said on Twitter.

The legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the United States, Britain and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the city was granted at its July 1, 1997, handover.

The United States condemned the legislation as a violation of Beijing’s international commitments and vowed to go on acting “against those who smothered Hong Kong’s freedom and autonomy.”

Washington, already in dispute with China over trade, the South China Sea and the coronavirus, began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U. S. law on Monday, halting defence exports and restricting technology access.

China said it would retaliate.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, in a video message to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, urged the international community to “respect our country’s right to safeguard national security”.

She said the law would not undermine the city’s autonomy or its independent judiciary.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests... (Read more)

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