A sweeping national security law for Hong Kong prohibiting acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to endanger national security was unanimously passed by Beijing’s top legislative body.
The NPCSC (National People’s Congress Standing Committee) approved the law on Tuesday, which is expected to carry life imprisonment as the maximum penalty. Leading Hong Kong daily, South China Morning Post, was informed by sources that the law was approved unanimously within 15 minutes of the meeting which started at 9am, by the standing committee’s 162 members.
A major point of dispute is that only a few Hong Kong delegates viewed a draft of the law before it made its way for legislation, showing lack of transparency given the legislation’s extensive consequences.
The standing committee began a special meeting on Sunday to advance the bill which was unanimously passed on the last day of the three-day session. SCMP has been informed by sources that the Basic Law Committee, which advises Beijing on Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, would meet “immediately after the standing committee passed the law to discuss its insertion into Annex III of the Basic Law”.
China’s official state news agency, Xinhua, would publish the details later, marking the first time the law is fully disclosed to the public, according to a source closely following situation.
All Hong Kong delegates to the nation’s top advisory body were informed to attend a meeting believed to be a briefing on the bill, at the central government’s liaison office at 3pm, which would include the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and the NPC.
The date when the law comes into effect is expected to fall on July 1st, which is the 23rd anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to China by Britain. Only a day after Beijing announced visa restrictions on United States officials after who “behaved extremely badly” over Hong Kong, the passage of the contentious legislation headed to the NPCSC for approval.
The year-long Hong Kong protests and the national security law, have caused an escalating diplomatic rift causing Beijing and Washington to be at loggerheads. The US’s immediate actions were to strip Hong Kong of its preferential trade status and placing visa restrictions on Chinese officials they felt were responsible for undermining local autonomy and Hong Kong’s freedoms.
During the weekly media briefing, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said she would not answer questions on the new law until it was passed by the NPCSC and had been listed in Annex III, for her government to put the new law into effect.
“It would be inappropriate for me to answer any questions and explain the law at this stage,” she said.
“What I can say is that when the law has been approved … My principal officials and myself will try our best to respond to questions about the law, especially those related to implementation and enforcement.”
Lam was asked what her role would be in implementing the new law along with other related questions like whether a new deputy commissioner will be appointed by the police force to handle national security issues, whether those convicted under the new law will be imprisoned for life, and under what circumstances Beijing would exercise its jurisdiction on Hong Kong’s national security cases.
The chief executive reiterated that she would not be answering questions on the new law, and ended the briefing after taking a question on the US’s latest sanctions on Hong Kong without following the practice of answering at least one question in English.
Any warnings from the US or other foreign governments to impose sanctions over the matter “would not scare Hong Kong” said Lam, and the Hong Kong government would provide full cooperation to Beijing for any potential countermeasures.
“A group of Hongkongers have always begged for foreign governments, especially the US, to intervene local affairs or to sanctions over Hong Kong … we are always ready if the central government retaliates, and we will fully cooperate if there are any sanctions taken by the central government,” she said. “
That is it for today. I wanted to start my Executive Council on time.” Once the law is already in effect on Wednesday, Lam is expected to meet the press. No details of the new legislation were discussed at the council meeting because,“the Hong Kong government has not read the final version of the law yet” according to a source.
30th June 19:20
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