China’s top legislative body has unanimously approved a controversial national security law for Hong Kong, Chinese media reported Tuesday, a move that paves the way for the most radical changes to the self-governing territory since it passed from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
The law was passed unanimously by the Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress, according to reports from multiple local media outlets, including cable television channel Now TV and newspaper the South China Morning Post, citing an unnamed source.
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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 enjoyed by the global financial hub.
Beijing has said the law is in response to the pro-democracy protests that have taken place in Hong Kong since last year. It aims to curb subversion, terrorism, separatism, and collision with foreign forces.
Many questions left unanswered
A draft of the law has not yet been published. It remains unclear whether specific activities are to be made illegal or how they will be defined or punished.
Beijing is expected to establish a national security office in Hong Kong in order to “supervise, guide and support” the city government.
According to the anonymous source, China’s official state news agency Xinhua will publish details of the law later on Tuesday. Hong Kong officials will also meet at Beijing’s top representative office in the city to discuss the law.
On Monday, Washington made first moves to end the special status Hong Kong enjoys with the US, arguing that China’s national security law would destroy the city’s autonomy. The US said it will also stop exporting defense equipment originating in the US to the territory.
“The United States is forced to take this action to protect US national security,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China.”
Read more: Will China’s new national security law for Hong Kong be the end of autonomy in the territory?
The decision to halt defense exports and restrict the territory’s access to high technology products came hours after China said it would impose new visa restrictions on US citizens, a move that was itself a response to an earlier escalation on the part of the US.
“We cannot risk these items falling into the hands of the People’s Liberation Army, whose primary purpose is to uphold the dictatorship of the CCP by any means necessary,” Pompeo said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
The US Commerce Department said it was suspending “preferential treatment to Hong Kong over China, including the availability of export license exceptions.” Further actions to eliminate Hong Kong’s status were being evaluated, it said.
Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a previous article.
kp/sri (AFP, dpa, Reuters)