HK security law takes effect
Xi signs legislation that critics fear will end Hong Kong’s freedoms
BEIJING—CHINESE President Xi Jinping has signed the Hong Kong national security law, putting into effect a legislation critics fear will curb the city’s freedoms. The law was enacted hours after it was passed by China’s parliament, setting the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony’s way of life since its return to Chinese rule. Washington reacted by eliminating the city’s special status.
HONG KONG/BEIJING—CHInese President Xi Jinping has signed the Hong Kong national security law, state media reported on Tuesday, putting into effect legislation critics fear will curb the city’s freedoms.
Xi enacted the law hours after after parliament passed it, setting the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony’s way of life since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago.
Details of the law—which comes in response to last year’s often-violent prodemocracy protests in the city and aims to tackle subversion, terrorism, separatism and collusion with foreign forces—are due out later on Tuesday.
Amid fears the legislation will crush the global financial hub’s freedoms, and reports that the heaviest penalty under it would be life imprisonment, prodemocracy activist Joshua Wong’s Demosisto group said it 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, already in dispute with China over trade, the South China Sea and the novel coronavirus, began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under US law on Monday, halting defense exports and restricting technology access. China said it would retaliate. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, speaking at her weekly news conference, said it was not appropriate for her to comment on the legislation as the meeting in Beijing was still going on, but she threw a jibe at the United States.
“No sort of sanctioning action will ever scare us,” Lam said.
Henry Tang, a Hong Kong delegate to China’s top advisory body, said after a meeting at Beijing’s main representative office in Hong Kong, details of the law would be published later on Tuesday.
It is expected to come into force imminently.
The editor in chief of the Global Times, a tabloid published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said on Twitter the heaviest penalty under the law was life imprisonment, without providing details.
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.
The legislation may get an early test with activists and prodemocracy politicians saying they would defy a police ban, amid coronavirus restrictions, on a rally on the anniversary of the July 1 handover.
At last year’s demonstration, which came amid a series of prodemocracy protests, a crowd stormed and vandalized the city’s legislature.
“We will never accept the passing of the law, even though it is so overpowering,” said Democratic Party chair Wu Chi-wai.
It is unclear if attending the unauthorized rally would constitute a national security crime if the law came into force by then.
A majority in Hong Kong opposes the legislation, a poll conducted for Reuters this month showed, but support for the protests has fallen to only a slim majority.
Police dispersed a handful of activists protesting against the law at a shopping mall.
Dozens of supporters of Beijing popped champagne corks and waved Chinese flags in celebration in front of government headquarters.
“I’m very happy,” said one elderly man, surnamed Lee.
“This will leave anti-china spies and people who brought chaos to Hong Kong with nowhere to go.”
This month, China’s official Xinhua news agency unveiled some of the law’s provisions, including that it would supersede existing Hong Kong legislation and that interpretation powers belong to China’s parliament top committee.
Beijing is expected to set up a national security office in Hong Kong for the first time and could also exercise jurisdiction on certain cases.
SEEING RED Buildings rise in the background as Hong Kong and Chinese flags are carried by supporters of the national security law on Tuesday.