Hong Kong needs a controversial new security law to fight “growing terrorism,” said the homeland security chief.
John Lee said the city has become “surrounded by the shadow of violence.”
After months of calm, this weekend saw a new wave of protests after the Beijing government proposed a security law that would drastically change Hong Kong’s unique status.
Opponents say it is a direct attempt to limit freedoms and silence critics.
The bill was introduced on Thursday as the Chinese Parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), met for its delayed annual rally.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the legislation – which would ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” – should be introduced “without delay.”
Thousands of people defied government warnings on Sunday and marched through downtown to protest the bill.
Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators who wore masks to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus. There have been at least 180 arrests.
In a statement released on Monday, Security Secretary John Lee said that in the past year “the violence in Hong Kong has escalated, with many cases involving explosives and real firearms”.
“Terrorism is growing in the city and activities that threaten national security, such as” Hong Kong’s independence “, are becoming more rampant. “
He said Sunday’s clashes showed “the necessity and urgency of the decision to be deliberated by the AFN” and that the law would ensure “long-term prosperity and stability” in Hong Kong.
Police Commissioner Chris Tang also welcomed the bill, saying that the weapons and explosives seized from the demonstrators showed that Hong Kong was “threatened by national security and that effective measures should be taken to prevent the situation from escalating.” deteriorates “.
What does the Chinese bill contain?
Under Hong Kong’s Basic Law – the mini-constitution in place since its return to Chinese rule in 1997 – it is largely responsible for its own internal affairs and security.
But the “draft decision” – as it was known before approval by the AFN – includes an article that says that Hong Kong “must improve” national security.
He added: “If necessary, the competent national security organs of the central people’s government will establish agencies in Hong Kong to fulfill national security safeguard obligations according to law. “
This means that China could potentially have its own law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong, alongside the city.
A group of 200 senior political officials from around the world issued a joint statement criticizing the Chinese plan.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also condemned the plans, describing them as a “death knell” for the city’s freedoms. The UK, Australia and Canada have also expressed “deep concern”.