By- Azra Rizvi
China has passed the controversial national security legislation for Hong Kong which gives it new powers over the city escalating fears of diminishing its freedoms.
According to Beijing, the law is necessary to deal with terrorism, subversion and foreign interference. However, critics say that the legislation will outlaw dissent and destroy the autonomy and freedoms promised when the territory was returned to China from British control in 1997 under a special agreement that guaranteed certain rights for 50 years.
China startled the city of Hong Kong last month when it stated that it would criminalise any act of secession, subversion, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces. This move of China came following angry protests ignited by another law last year which turned into a pro-democracy movement.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the law unanimously on Tuesday morning local time, at a three-day meeting that started on Sunday according to multiple media reports in Hong Kong citing unnamed sources. The draft of this new law has not been made public which means that majority of the people will not have seen details of the measures which they now have to follow.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam refused to comment on the security law at her weekly news conference on Tuesday.
The law has been widely criticised and many fear that the law could be used to override existing legal processes and completely sabotage the city’s unique freedoms, not seen in mainland China. The law has been condemned internationally and it also sparked demonstrations in Hong Kong ever since it was announced by Beijing in May.
China has said that the law is required to tackle unrest and instability in the city and rejects criticism as interference in its affairs.
Joshua Wong, a leading activist who resigned as leader of pro-democracy group Demosisto a few hours after it emerged the law had been passed said that the law marked “the end of the Hong Kong that the world knew before.” “From now on, Hong Kong enters a new era of the reign of terror. With sweeping powers and ill-defined law the city will turn into a secret police state,” he said.
The law has been passed a day before July 1, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from British colonial rule to China in 1997 which has become an annual day of protests in the city. However, for the first time since handover police have not permitted protesters to hold peaceful demonstrations.