China’s parliament passed national security legislation for Hong Kong on Tuesday, 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.
State media is expected to publish details of the law – which comes in response to last year’s often-violent pro-democracy protests in the city and aims to tackle subversion, terrorism, separatism and collusion with foreign forces – later on Tuesday.
Amid fears the legislation will crush the global financial hub’s rights and freedoms, and reports that the heaviest penalty under it would be life imprisonment, prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong said he would quit his Demosisto group.
“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 began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law on Monday, halting defence exports and restricting the territory’s access to high-technology products.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, speaking at her regular 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.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of a think-tank under the Beijing cabinet’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told Reuters the law was passed unanimously with 162 votes. It is expected to come into force imminently.
REPUBLISHED FROM: REUTERS