Chinese Legislature Approves Security Law for Hong Kong

HONG KONG – China’s legislature has passed a controversial national security law for Hong Kong that the United States and pro-democracy activists believe will further erode the semi-autonomous city’s freedoms.

The new law, approved Tuesday in Beijing by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, generally calls for the central government in Beijing to establish a national security office in Hong Kong aimed at confronting subversion of state power, terrorism, separatism and collusion with foreign forces.  The exact details of the new law have yet to be released.

The new law caps Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aggressive efforts to tighten control over the financial hub over the past few years, which has led to massive street protests by pro-democracy activists seeking greater freedoms for Hong Kong. The city was rocked during the second half of 2019 by angry and often violent demonstrations sparked by a controversial extradition bill that was eventually withdrawn.

Buildings are seen above Hong Kong and Chinese flags, as pro-China supporters celebration after China’s parliament passes national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, June 30,2020.

The action by the Chinese legislature bypasses Hong Kong’s legislature, which has the authority to pass any security laws under the Basic Law, the city’s constitution.  Hong Kong lawmakers have been pressured by Beijing in the past to approve a national security law, but were met by heavy protests.

The law was approved Tuesday on the eve of the anniversary of Britain’s 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China.  City authorities have banned the annual rally marking the anniversary of the handover, citing risks of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trump administration has taken a series of steps after China announced its intentions to approve the national security law back in May.  U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced earlier this month that the United States no longer considers Hong Kong autonomous from China, and on Monday ended exports of defense equipment and dual-use technologies that originate in the U.S. to Hong Kong, citing national security purposes.

Last Friday, the United States announced visa restrictions on current and former Chinese Communist Party officials deemed responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, or undermining human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry told reporters Monday in Beijing it would impose similar visa restrictions on certain U.S. individuals.