China unveils details of national security law for Hong Kong

WION Web Team
Beijing, China Published: Jun 20, 2020, 06:16 PM(IST)

Beijing and Hong Kong's government said the new powers would only target a "very small minority". But it has quickly become clear certain political views, even if expressed peacefully, are now illegal -- especially calls for independence or autonomy. The first arrests under the new law came on Wednesday, almost all of them people who were in possession of flags or leaflets promoting independence. Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The details of the law were unveiled following a three-day meeting of the top decision-making body of China's parliament.

China has unveiled details of its new national security law for Hong Kong on Saturday.

The details of the law were unveiled following a three-day meeting of the top decision-making body of China's parliament.

The much-anticipated legislation, which has provoked deep concerns in Washington and Europe, includes a national security office for Hong Kong to collect intelligence and handle crimes against national security, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

National security activities would protect human rights and freedom of speech and assembly, it added, without providing details.

China says the draft law is aimed at tackling separatist activity, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, but critics fear it will crush wide-ranging freedoms that are seen as key to Hong Kong's status as a global financial centre.

The exact time frame for enacting the law was unclear, although political analysts expect it will take effect ahead of key Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong on September 6.

China's move to impose the law directly on Hong Kong, bypassing the city's legislature, comes after a year of sometimes violent anti-government and anti-Beijing protests that mainland and local authorities blame "foreign forces" for fomenting.

Some political commentators say the law is aimed at sealing Hong Kong's "second return" to the motherland after Britain's 1997 handover failed to bring residents of the restive city to heel.

At the time of the handover, China promised to allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy for 50 years under what is known as the "one country two systems" formula of governance, although democracy activists say Beijing has increasingly tightened its grip over the city.

Officials in Beijing and Hong Kong have been at pains to reassure investors that the law will not erode the city's high degree of autonomy, insisting it will only target a minority of "troublemakers" who pose a threat to national security.

Hong Kong has said the law would not erode investor confidence and people who abide by it have no reason to worry.

Despite such assurances, the law has alarmed business groups, diplomats and rights organisations, further strained ties between the United States and China, and prompted the G7 foreign ministers to urge Beijing not to go through with it.

Beijing proposed the new legislation last month, drawing a swift rebuke from Britain and the United States.

DETAILS

According to details released by the official Xinhua news agency, Hong Kong will establish a committee to safeguard the legislation, headed by the city's leader Carrie Lam and supervised by the central government.

New police and prosecution units will be set up to investigate and enforce the law.

Lam will also have the power to appoint judges to hear cases related to national security, an unprecedented move likely to unnerve some investors, diplomats and business leaders in Hong Kong.

Currently senior judges allocate judicial rosters up through Hong Kong`s independent judicial system.

Officials in Beijing and Hong Kong have sought to reassure investors that the law will not erode the city`s autonomy, insisting it will target only a minority of "troublemakers" who pose a threat to national security.

Xinhua said human rights and freedom of speech and assembly would be protected, echoing previous comments by authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Additionally, any Hong Kong residents running for election or working for the government will have to swear allegiance to the city and its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

(with inputs from Reuters)

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