This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
China’s top legislative body approved a national security law on Tuesday for Hong Kong that will bring China’s feared state security police to the city and criminalize secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces, Hong Kong media reports said.
The National People’s Congress Standing Committee voted unanimously to approve the law on the former British colony when it wrapped up a three-day meeting Tuesday in Beijing, The South China Morning Post and other outlets in the city reported.
The law was “approved unanimously by the standing committee’s 162 members, within 15 minutes of the meeting starting,” the English-language newspaper reported.
China has yet to make public any detailed provision of the law, which it claims has widespread support in Hong Kong. China’s official Xinhua News Agency will publish details of the law later on Tuesday, the Post said.
Xinhua has reported that it will target acts of “secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign or external forces that endanger national security.”
The law requires the setting up of a national security office under the direct control of the ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing to oversee the implementation of the law, while local officials including chief executive Carrie Lam will also ensure it is implemented.
There are also provisions that will allow Lam to appoint judges to preside in trials under the national security law, which will see China’s feared state security police given free rein to operate in Hong Kong.
In addition, the city’s police force has also set up a separate national security department to bring cases under the law, and its justice bureau will follow suit.
Some “special cases” will be handled directly from Beijing, with no indication given of what might constitute a “special case.”
At a regular news briefing on Tuesday, Lam would not comment on reports it had passed.
“It is not appropriate for me to comment on any questions related to the national security law,” she said.
The South China Morning Post reported that only a few Hong Kong delegates to the national legislature saw a draft of the law before its passage on Tuesday, the last day of a special session to fast-track the legislation.
The national security legislation has been condemned internationally as a threat to Hong Kong’s autonomy as promised under the “one country, two systems” terms of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese control in 1997.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday said the U.S. would stop exporting sensitive military items to Hong Kong, following his announcement Friday that Washington was imposing visa restrictions on current and former Chinese Communist Party members believed to be responsible for undermining Hong Kong’s promised autonomy and traditional freedoms.
“As Beijing moves forward with passing the national security law, the United States will today end exports of U.S.-origin defense equipment and will take steps toward imposing the same restrictions on U.S. defense and dual-use technologies to Hong Kong as it does for China,” Pompeo sad in a statement.
“We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China,” he added.
The U.S. views the national security law as being in breach of China’s international obligations under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration governing the 1997 handover.
Rights groups and pro-democracy activists say it will bring mainland Chinese law enforcement to the city, in spite of promises that it would run its own law enforcement and judicial business. Activists warn that leaders of pro-democracy protests since 2014 could be among the first targets of mainland-inspired arrests.
Hong Kong police arrested 53 people on Sunday at the scene of a rally against the national security legislation, charging them with illegal assembly under existing public order laws.