“We urge Beijing to immediately reverse course and fulfil the promises it has made to the people of Hong Kong and the world,” he said in a statement. “Further actions to eliminate differential treatment are also being evaluated.”
The new laws will establish mainland national security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and criminalise acts of secession, subversion and collusion with foreign powers. They are also expected to give the Hong Kong government the power to appoint judges to hear national security cases. The sweeping changes have triggered fears among pro-democracy protesters that the laws will increase Beijing’s control and stamp out dissent.
Prominent Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong, Nathan Law and Agnes Chow resigned from Demosisto, the pro-democracy party they founded, within hours of the laws being passed. The activists, who have been labelled secessionists by Chinese state media, believed they would have been targeted by the new laws.
“The will of Hong Kong will not be frozen by the national security law or any evil law,” Wong said in his resignation post on Facebook.
The South-China Morning Post reported on Tuesday that the law was approved within 15 minutes of the standing committee meeting starting at 9am, Beijing time. All 163 members voted in favour of the legislation which is expected to come into force on Wednesday.
The final text of the legislation has been kept closely guarded ahead of the vote and is expected to be unveiled by Chinese state media on Tuesday afternoon.
The US, the United Kingdom and Australia have argued the laws are a breach of the “one country, two systems” principle that governed Britain’s 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China and guaranteed its semi-autonomous status.
Beijing maintains the new laws are necessary to put an end to more than a year of protests over separate laws that would have extradited Hong Kong residents to China to face trial.
China’s Foreign Ministry has fired back at global criticism of the laws, arguing they are internal affairs and accusing other countries of foreign interference.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that China would impose visa restrictions on US individuals accused of “egregious conduct” in relation to Hong Kong after Washington said it would limit visas to Chinese officials “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy.”
“The US is attempting to obstruct China’s legislation for safeguarding national security in the HK SAR [Special Administrative Region] by imposing the so-called sanctions, but it will never succeed,” Zhao said.
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Eryk Bagshaw is the China correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Due to travel restrictions, he is currently based in Canberra.