NPC approves HK national security law

Top News | Michael Shum 29 May 2020

China's parliament yesterday approved plans to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong, bringing it one step closer.

The National People's Congress voted 2,878 to 1 in favor of the decision to empower its standing committee to draft the legislation, with six abstentions.

Deputies burst into applause for more than 10 seconds in the Great Hall of the People when the vote tally was projected on the screen.

The decision empowers the NPC Standing Committee to draft the laws next month, put them into the Basic Law's Annex III, and be implemented in Hong Kong by promulgation as soon as August.

There are seven articles in the resolution, which says there should be necessary measures to establish and improve the legal system for the HKSAR to prevent, stop and punish "acts and activities" to split the country, subvert state power, organize and carry out terrorist activities and other behavior that seriously endangers national security, as well as activities of foreign and external forces to interfere in the affairs of the SAR.

It also says the Hong Kong chief executive must regularly report to Beijing on the SAR's performance in safeguarding national security, carrying out national security education and forbidding acts and activities endangering national security .

The word "activities" was added during the amendment process before the final version was voted on.

Hong Kong independence is specifically mentioned in the preface of the resolution as "a kind of illegal activity hampering national security."

At a press conference after the vote, Premier Li Keqiang said the NPC decision is to ensure one country, two systems continues smoothly in the long term and to secure Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.

"The central government has been emphasizing a full and accurate implementation of one country, two systems and Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy, while also acting in strict accordance with the constitution and Basic Law," he said.

The Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director, Xia Baolong, met with Hong Kong delegates to the NPC last night, saying the Standing Committee was left with no choice but to legislate the law. Xia was quoted as saying: "The central government is determined to safeguard one country, two systems, as well as the benefits of Hong Kong citizens."

Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong's sole delegate to the Standing Committee, said adding the word "activity" will ensure the scope of the legislation will not be too narrow.

There will be clear definition of "acts and activities" against national security in the law, he believed.

Henry Tang Ying-yen, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Standing Committee, said the freedoms and rights of law-abiding citizens will remain unaffected.

But pro-democracy lawmaker Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu from the Civic Party described the move as "2,878 people in Beijing deciding the future of Hong Kong, some of whom might not even have visited Hong Kong before."

Party colleague Dennis Kwok Wing-hang said: "This is the death knell of Hong Kong. Make no mistake, this is the end of one country, two systems, the end of Hong Kong as we know it." The NPC decision came a day after United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, told the US Congress that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous enough from Beijing to merit special trade treatment.

In a statement, Pompeo said China's plan to impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong was "only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms."

"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," he said.

President Donald Trump's administration is considering suspending Hong Kong's preferential tariff rates for exports to the US in response, sources said.

The top American diplomat for East Asia, David Stilwell, said there was a long list of potential US responses that ranged across the spectrum, including visa and economic sanctions.

The Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry's Office in Hong Kong issued a statement yesterday calling their threats "utterly imperious, unreasonable and shameless."

Editorial: So who will feel the pain most?

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