China’s top legislative body has passed the national security law for Hong Kong as it moves towards promulgation without local legislative oversight. It received all 162 votes in favour, according to local media.
The law will need to be overseen by Hong Kong’s Basic Law Committee before it is enacted in the city, which could be as soon as Wednesday.
Critics say the legislation – intended to prevent and stop acts deemed to threaten national security – would hobble freedoms and political dissent following months of sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations.
Moments after the news broke, Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to answer reporters’ questions on the passing of the law at a weekly press conference ahead of her Executive Council meeting, saying it would be inappropriate for her to comment.
“Over the past two days, there have been a lot of speculations and reporting about the clauses and personnel arrangement. So I think at this moment, it is not appropriate for me to respond to any questions or relevant explanations,” she said.
The leader is expected to address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva via video later today.
On Sunday, Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Amnesty International’s China Team, urged Beijing to reconsider: “Hong Kong stands at the cliff-edge of an uncertain and unsettling future, its freedoms threatened by national security legislation that could override the laws currently protecting the city’s inhabitants from the worst excesses of state-sponsored repression,” he said.
“The Chinese government must abandon plans to pass a national security law for Hong Kong unless it can provide water-tight guarantees that the legislation conforms with human rights in all aspects.”
State-run Xinhua News Agency reported initial details of the draft last Saturday, including plans to establish a Beijing-led national security bureau in Hong Kong, empowering the chief executive with the ability to select judges to handle national security crimes whilst giving Chinese authorities jurisdiction in such cases.
More to follow.