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12 August
Wednesday

Asia

Beijing unanimously passes sweeping national security law for Hong Kong

162 members of National People’s Congress Standing Committee back legislation

Photo: REUTERS

/NOVOSTIVL/ China's top decision-making body unanimously passed a controversial national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday morning, local media reported. Details of the legislation are expected to be released later in the day.

Media including public broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong reported that all 162 members of the National People's Congress Standing Committee voted in favor of the legislation, which will be applied to Hong Kong as soon as Wednesday. The city's July 1 holiday has long been marked by a large protest march by opposition groups and it is uncertain how the law will affect their plans.

The legislation provides criminal penalties for separatism, subversion, terrorism and collusion in support of foreign interference. It follows a year of unrest in the financial hub, which sometimes descended into violent clashes between police and protesters. Beijing has long accused foreign forces of inciting the demonstrations.

Speaking on Tuesday morning, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said it was "inappropriate" to comment on the security laws as the standing committee meeting was still underway in Beijing.

Hours before the committee's move, U.S. officials announced that Washington would end exports of defense equipment to Hong Kong and abolish the city's preferential access to technologies with potential military application. Arguing that the security law will diminish the city's autonomy, the Trump administration is moving to treat Hong Kong equally with mainland China.

The draft legislation has not been made public despite widespread concerns that the law, whose adoption circumvents Hong Kong's legislature, will curtail the city's civil liberties and autonomy, underpinned by the "one country, two systems" framework.Before departing on Saturday for the meeting in Beijing, Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong's sole delegate on the NPC Standing Committee, told reporters that it was possible the law would include life sentences for some crimes.

According to a report by China's official Xinhua News Agency last week, the new security laws will allow Beijing to overrule Hong Kong's legal system by giving the central government jurisdiction over cases under "certain circumstances."

A security commission directly reporting to the central government will also be set up in the territory, the report said. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's chief executive will have the power to appoint judges handling related court cases locally.

Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng Index opened higher on Tuesday morning. Trading began a few minutes after the first reports of the passage of the national security law. The index initially dropped after the surprise announcement of the security laws on May 22 but has since recovered.


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