The legislation was introduced after the territory was rocked by anti-government protests that Beijing said were inspired by foreign forces. It was adopted without discussion by Hong Kong’s own legislature, in an unprecedented demonstration of China’s control over the city’s legal system.
The new law will strengthen Beijing’s grip on the territory, which is expected to have a high level of autonomy under the conditions of its transfer from British rule to China in 1997.
The Trump administration has declared the new law to be a “violation” of China’s commitments in the Sino-British joint statement.
“As Beijing now treats Hong Kong as” one country, one system “, the United States must do the same,” said John Ullyot, spokesman for the National Security Council. “The United States will continue to take strong action against those who stifled the freedom and autonomy of Hong Kong. We urge Beijing to immediately reverse the course. “
Under the new law, Chinese state security agencies will also be allowed to operate openly in Hong Kong for the first time. The law applies to people in Hong Kong and those not in the territory, which means that foreigners who speak out for independence of the region or who advocate sanctions against China could be prosecuted. upon entry into Hong Kong or mainland China.
Damaging public transport with the intention of causing “serious social harm” is considered a terrorist act under the new law, which also gives Beijing the power to try national security crimes at the request of the new Hong Kong State Security Bureau.
Dominic Raab, the British Foreign Minister, said the new law was “a serious step, which is deeply troubling”.
Brussels also criticized the adoption of the law. “We deplore this decision,” said Charles Michel, president of the European Council of EU Member State Leaders. “This law risks seriously compromising Hong Kong’s high level of autonomy and could have a detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.”
Eric Cheung, a legal expert from the University of Hong Kong, said the current law is “much worse” than he had expected.
“The extra-territorial effect of this bill will really alarm all foreigners and foreign investment and no one can feel safe now. Those who took a transit flight through Hong Kong are at risk of arrest, he said.
Prior to the Chinese decision, the UK said it would prepare a “path to citizenship” for as many as 3 million Hong Kongers who were eligible to apply for British national passports (overseas).
The United States has said it will prevent companies from exporting sensitive weapons and technology to Hong Kong due to concerns that it may be obtained by the Chinese military. The administration also plans to take measures that would further harm the special trade privileges that Hong Kong has enjoyed since its handover on the grounds that it was not under the control of the Chinese government.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, warned last week of “very negative consequences” if China advances the law. She added that the EU had discussed the matter with its partners in the Western G7 group of powers and Japan. But the European bloc has not yet specified what measures, if any, it could take in response.
Hong Kong police can intercept communications and conduct covert surveillance of suspects, with approval of regional director general, currently Carrie Lam, who has become deeply unpopular with residents since the protests of the year last.
The Director General also has the power to select judges to preside over national security matters, unlike the current system, in which judicial powers are carried out by the judiciary.