A woman walks by the Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region office building in Beijing, on Tuesday. AP
China's parliament passed national security legislation for Hong Kong on Tuesday, setting the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony's way of life since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago.
State media is expected to publish details of the law — which comes in response to last year's often-violent pro-democracy protests in the city and aims to tackle subversion, terrorism, separatism and collusion with foreign forces — later on Tuesday.
Amid fears the legislation will crush the global financial hub's rights and freedoms, and reports that the heaviest penalty under it would be life imprisonment, prominent pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong said he would quit his Demosisto group.
"It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before," Wong said on Twitter.
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 the city was granted at its July 1, 1997, handover.
The United States began eliminating Hong Kong's special status under U.S. law on Monday, halting defence exports and restricting the territory's access to high-technology products.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, speaking at her regular weekly news conference, said it was not appropriate for her to comment on the legislation as the meeting in Beijing was still going on, but she threw a jibe at the United States.
"No sort of sanctioning action will ever scare us," Lam said.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of a think-tank under the Beijing cabinet's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, told Reuters the law was passed unanimously with 162 votes. It is expected to come into force imminently.
The editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a tabloid published by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, said on Twitter the heaviest penalty under the law was life imprisonment, without providing details.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few "troublemakers" and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.
China warned the United States on Thursday it would take “firm counter measures” in response to US legislation backing anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, and said attempts
At least 16 people, most of them teenagers, were arrested on charges of possessing items fit for unlawful purposes, such as petrol bombs and screwdrivers. Three of the people arrested were charged for dangerous driving.
By imposing a hugely controversial and sweeping national security law for Hong Kong, China has just struck a deathblow to the city’s autonomy and liberties. Clearly, the new law will kill future democratic movements.
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