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AFP
July 1, 2020

China passes Hong Kong security law

World

AFP
July 1, 2020

China passed a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday, a historic move that critics and many western governments fear will smother the finance hub’s freedoms and hollow out its autonomy.

The legislation was unanimously approved by China’s rubber-stamp parliament and signed by President Xi Jinping, according to the official Xinhua news agency, little more than six weeks after it was first unveiled.

Beijing’s Hong Kong office described the security law as a "sword" hanging over the heads of those who endanger national security. The contents of the law have so far been kept secret from Hong Kong’s 7.5 million inhabitants, sparking alarm and anger.

"It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before," prominent democracy campaigner Joshua Wong tweeted as his political party Demosisto announced it was disbanding. "With sweeping powers and ill-defined law, the city will turn into a #secretpolicestate."

The United States, Britain, the European Union and the United Nations rights watchdog have all voiced fears it could be used to stifle criticism of Beijing, which wields similar laws to crush dissent on the mainland.

The law bypassed Hong Kong’s fractious legislature, and it is unclear when it will be published or enacted. "The fact that Hong Kong people will only come to know what’s really in this new law after the fact is more than preposterous," Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker, told AFP.

As part of the 1997 handover from Britain, Hong Kong was guaranteed certain freedoms -- as well as judicial and legislative autonomy -- for 50 years in a deal known as "One Country, Two Systems". The formula formed the bedrock of the city’s transformation into a world-class business hub, bolstered by a reliable judiciary and political freedoms unseen on the mainland.