BEIJING (AFP) – China’s parliament approved plans yesterday to impose a security law on Hong Kong.
The vote by the National People’s Congress (NPC) came hours after the United States (US) revoked the special status conferred on Hong Kong, paving the way for the territory to be stripped of trading and economic privileges.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the status had been withdrawn because China was no longer honouring its handover agreement with Britain to allow Hong Kong a high level of autonomy.
China made the security law a top priority at its annual NPC session, after huge protests rocked the financial hub for seven months last year.
The law would punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and acts that endanger national security, as well as allow mainland security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong.
Yesterday, the final day of the Congress, delegates endorsed plans for the law, with a higher body now tasked with formulating the specific legislation.
NPC Standing Committee Vice Chairman Wang Chen said last week that Hong Kong’s delays in implementing its own security law had forced the Chinese leadership to take action.
“More than 20 years after Hong Kong’s return (to China) relevant laws are yet to materialise due to the sabotage and obstruction by those trying to sow trouble in Hong Kong and China at large, as well as external hostile forces,” Wang said.
Under a law passed last year by Congress aimed at supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, the US administration must certify that Hong Kong still enjoys the freedoms promised by Beijing when it negotiated with Britain to take back the colony.
Washington’s decision means Hong Kong could lose trading privileges – including lower tariffs than the mainland – with the world’s largest economy.