Beijing: The Chinese parliament on Thursday approved a plan to implement a security law against Hong Kong, which has intensified tensions with the United States and triggered new protests, fearing that the city is losing its special freedom.
The rubber stamped National People’s Congress (NPC) vote stimulated the United States and Britain to call on the UN Security Council to hold an informal meeting on Friday to discuss this issue.
A few hours later, Washington withdrew the special status accorded to Hong Kong, paving the way for Hong Kong to deprive it of trade and economic privileges.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that this status has been revoked because China no longer abides by the transfer agreement with the United Kingdom to allow Hong Kong to enjoy a high degree of autonomy.
“No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China,” Pompeo said.
Last year, seven months after large-scale democratic protests shook the financial center, China made security law a priority at its annual meeting of the National People’s Congress.
The law will punish acts of splitting the country, subverting state power, terrorism and endangering national security, and will allow mainland security agencies to conduct business in Hong Kong.
The delegates approved the legal plan with almost unanimous vote and warm applause.
Li Zhanshu, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, who is currently drafting the law, said the move “is in the fundamental interest of all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots.”
Lin Zhengyue, the leader of Hong Kong on all sides, said she welcomed the resolution being passed.
Lin said that in accordance with the requirements of the resolution, she would regularly submit reports to Beijing and “strengthen law enforcement and public education to maintain national security.”
But the law has been fiercely criticized.
“It s the end of Hong Kong…. They are cutting off our souls, taking away the values which we ve always embraced, values like human rights, democracy, rule of law,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo told AFP.
Joshua Wong, a well-known democracy movement figure, told AFP that the Security Law “will kill the democratic movement in Hong Kong.”
The United States tried to convene a formal meeting of the Security Council on Wednesday to discuss this move, but it was blocked by China.
A day later, it joined forces with the United Kingdom to try again. This time it called for an informal closed-door videoconference of the Security Council. Its form allowed any member to ask various questions, and China could not object in principle.
Diplomats told AFP that the meeting is scheduled for Friday morning.
According to the US law passed last year to support the democratic movement in Hong Kong, Washington must prove that Hong Kong still enjoys the freedom commitments it made when Beijing negotiated with Britain to retake the colony.
But the United States and the United Kingdom said in a joint statement with their allies Canada and Australia on Thursday that the security laws proposed by Beijing “conflicted directly” with these commitments and caused China to violate its international obligations.
Washington said a day ago that the city may lose its trade privileges, including lower tariffs than the world ’s largest continent.
President Donald Trump said he will announce “everything we have done to China” at a press conference on Friday, saying he is “not satisfied” with Beijing, but did not disclose specific details.
David Stilwell, a senior official in the East Asian region of the State Council, emphasized that the United States does not want to harm the people of Hong Kong and added: “This decision was made by the Beijing government, not the United States.”
The Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Chinese Financial Center said on Thursday that the United States ’withdrawal of Hong Kong ’s special status was“ the most brutal, the most unreasonable, and the most shameless ”.
Washington’s move came after a new protest broke out in Hong Kong on Wednesday, a new protest against another controversial proposed law criminalizing insulting the national anthem broke out in Hong Kong.
The police fired pepperball bullets at the demonstrators and arrested more than 300 people, most of which were illegal assemblies.
“It s like a de facto curfew now,” Nathan Law, a prominent pro-democracy advocate, told AFP.
“I think the government has to understand why people are really angry.”
However, a spokesperson for the Beijing Liaison Office in Hong Kong warned the protesters that “do n’t play with fire”. This is a comment issued by the national security agency Xinhua in support of the security law.
Under the “one country, two systems” model agreed before the city s return from Britain to China, Hong Kong is supposed to be guaranteed certain liberties until 2047 that are denied to those on the mainland.
Since the handover, the mini-constitution that has governed Hong Kong affairs stipulates that the Hong Kong authorities have an obligation to enact national security laws.
But in 2003, the work was put on hold due to massive protests by Hong Kong people.