China approves controversial 'security law,' which faces steep criticism overseas

Police officers ask people to leave during a protest after China's parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong

Hong Kong security law criticized abroad, defended by China

A controversial national security law imposed by China on Hong Kong has come into force, punishing crimes of secession, sedition and collusion with foreign forces with terms of up to life in prison. Xi Jinping signed the law on Tuesday.

The Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress on Tuesday unanimously adopted the law on Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong, which was first announced in May.

The latest development could become a setback for thawing ties between Japan and China despite their differences over perception of wartime history and territory.

Export to Hong Kong or China?

An EU-China Summit set for September has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said it needed to be quickly rescheduled and it was essential that the EU spoke with one voice on China.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga attends a press conference in Tokyo on June 30, 2020.

China passed a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday, a historic move that critics and many western governments fear will smother the finance hub's freedoms and hollow out its autonomy.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few "troublemakers" in Hong Kong and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.

"The future of "one country, two systems" is extremely important to our country that has close economic relations and people-to-people exchanges with Hong Kong", Suga said, adding Tokyo will work with other nations in urging Beijing to deal with the matter "appropriately".

Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, said: "This decision, which rides roughshod over Hong Kong's elected legislature, marks the end of "one country, two systems". Dedicated units in the Hong Kong police force and the department of justice will be responsible for implementing the relevant legal provisions in the law, the statement added. "The national security law will be used as a reason to disqualify people they worry about the most, but the question is how many can they disqualify?"

The law also said certain national security cases could be held behind closed doors without juries in Hong Kong if they contained state secrets, although the verdict and eventual judgements would be made public.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo onsaid the USA would stop exporting sensitive military items to Hong Kong, following his announcementthat Washington was imposing visa restrictions on current and former Chinese Communist Party members believed to be responsible for undermining Hong Kong's promised autonomy and traditional freedoms.

The SCMP has been told the Basic Law Committee, which advises Beijing on Hong Kong's mini-constitution, would meet "immediately after the standing committee passed the law to discuss its insertion into Annex III of the Basic Law".

They say Beijing is determined to use the law to pursue political opponents, including possibly trying them in mainland courts under Communist Party control. "For the vast majority of Hong Kong residents, including foreigners in Hong Kong, the law is the guardian of their rights, freedom and peaceful life". China says it was concerned by the move and seeking details. "You listen to opinions and you are ready to modify the content of it", Hong Kong barrister Margaret Ng told DW.

"I'm sure a lot of people are slowly preparing to go away, because I don't see how Hong Kong as we know it can survive", he said. The law is expected to "utterly change" the lives of the more than seven million people who live in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

The European Union council president, Charles Michel, said "we deplore the decision" and the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the bloc was now discussing with global partners on any possible measures in response.

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