China has passed a national security law for Hong Kong, which will undermine the region’s autonomy, in the face of staunch criticism from the international community and the United States in particular.
The law, approved by The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress will criminalise foreign interference, subversion and secession. Effectively, it has been designed to quash protests and activism against Beijing’s attempts to erase the firewall between the semi-autonomous region and mainland China’s authoritarian, communist system. It would also legislate that damage to government property, arson and other protest measures like those that were seen throughout Hong Kong in recent months will be considered acts of terrorism.
“We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from stirring up trouble,” said Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the Standing Committee, according to AP. “Don’t let Hong Kong be used as a tool to split the country.”
The law, which was only quietly passed by 11 p.m local time, where it was published and took effect immediately, has faced a mountain of criticism from the international community, including international human rights organisations and United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who said that Hong Kong will no longer be given special trade privileges that only exist due to the “one country, two systems” arrangement.
“We are ending defense and dual-use technology exports to the territory,” Pompeo said, according to The Hill. “Per President Trump’s instruction, we will eliminate policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment, with few exceptions.”
The US will also impose travel restrictions on Hong Kong, after President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order promulgating the law shortly after the panel passed it. China responded to the travel restrictions with several of their own for US travellers.
The legislation is the latest development in anti-government protests against China that have been occurring in Hong Kong for months, where activists have called on lawmakers to withstand attempts to undermine the region’s autonomy, granted under the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong.