BEIJING • The top decision-making body of China’s Parliament will review a draft of national security legislation for Hong Kong during a session in Beijing that began yesterday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The draft legislation specifies the definition of four crimes: separatist activity, state subversion, terrorist activity and collusion with foreign forces, Xinhua reported. It also sets out punishments for those crimes.
The law is expected to bring about the most profound change to the former British colony since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
It will likely allow mainland security agents to be based in Hong Kong for the first time, and critics fear the move will crush the city’s wide-ranging freedoms seen as key to its success as a financial hub.
The authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have dismissed those fears, saying the law will target only a minority of “troublemakers” who pose a threat to national security.
Still, the decision has sparked some of the strongest exchanges between Chinese and United States officials, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling it a “death knell” for freedoms in the city.
The Hong Kong security legislation is the biggest step yet by Beijing in a concerted campaign to assert its authority over the city and its 7.5 million people, after months of often violent anti-government demonstrations.
The legislation was not listed on an earlier agenda of the session of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.
On Wednesday, foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G-7) countries, including Mr Pompeo, issued a statement urging China to “reconsider this decision”.
In a rare face-to-face meeting with Mr Pompeo in Hawaii later in the day, China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi told the US official that Beijing’s “determination” to introduce the law was “unwavering”, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
“China resolutely opposes the words and deeds of the US side interfering in Hong Kong affairs and resolutely opposes the statement made by the G-7 foreign ministers on Hong Kong-related issues,” Mr Yang said.
Meanwhile, Taiwan said yesterday it would open a special office on July 1 to deal with Hong Kongers wanting to move to the island, including those seeking sanctuary for “political reasons”.
China resolutely opposes the words and deeds of the US side interfering in Hong Kong affairs and resolutely opposes the statement made by the G-7 foreign ministers on Hong Kong-related issues.
MR YANG JIECHI, China’s top diplomat, who had a face-to-face meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s government will cover the “necessary expenses” for those who seek refuge in Taiwan because their freedom and safety are under threat, said Mr Chen Ming-tong, chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top China policymaking body.
Self-ruled democratic Taiwan says it has received an influx of inquiries from Hong Kong activists seeking shelter as Beijing cracks down on protesters in their city.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE