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World China passes sweeping HK security law, heralding authoritarian era

22:21  30 june  2020
22:21  30 june  2020 Source:   reuters.com

Hong Kong marks handover anniversary as national security law takes effect

  Hong Kong marks handover anniversary as national security law takes effect Hong Kong marks handover anniversary as national security law takes effectThe contentious law will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China's freest city.

By Meg Shen and Yew Lun Tian

a group of people wearing military uniforms: Police officers ask people to leave during a protest after China's parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU Police officers ask people to leave during a protest after China's parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) - Beijing on Tuesday unveiled new national security laws for Hong Kong that will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China's freest city.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Pro-democracy protesters observe a minute of silence during a protest after China's parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU Pro-democracy protesters observe a minute of silence during a protest after China's parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong

As the law came into force, authorities were set to throw a security blanket across the heart of the city's financial centre on Wednesday after activists vowed to defy a police ban and rally against the measures.

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a crowd of people standing in front of a building: Riot police patrol at a shopping mall during a protest after China's parliament passes national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU Riot police patrol at a shopping mall during a protest after China's parliament passes national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong

Local media said up to 4,000 officers would be deployed to stamp out any protests.

China's parliament passed the detailed legislation earlier on Tuesday, giving Beijing sweeping powers and setting the stage for radical changes to the global financial hub's way of life.

Beijing had kept full details shrouded in secrecy, giving Hong Kong's 7.5 million people no time to digest the complex legislation before it entered into force at 11.00 pm (1500 GMT) on June 30.

The timing was seen as a symbolic humiliation for Britain, coming just an hour before the 23rd anniversary of when Hong Kong's last colonial governor, Chris Patten, a staunch critic of the law, tearfully handed back Hong Kong to Chinese rule.

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Police officers stop and search demonstrators during a protest after China's parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU Police officers stop and search demonstrators during a protest after China's parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong

Amid fears the law will crush the city's freedoms, prominent activist Joshua Wong's Demosisto and other pro-democracy groups said they would dissolve.

"The punitive elements of the law are stupefying," Simon Young, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong's law school and a barrister, told Reuters.

"Let us hope no one tries to test this law, for the consequences to the individual and the legal system will be irreparable."

a laptop computer sitting on top of a table: Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, addresses by video link the Human Rights Council in Geneva © Reuters/DENIS BALIBOUSE Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, addresses by video link the Human Rights Council in Geneva

The legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the United States, Britain and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the city was granted at its July 1, 1997, handover.

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  China-Sanctions Bill on Hong Kong Law Passed by U.S. House The U.S. House of Representatives passed by unanimous consent a bill imposing sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials involved in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. © Bloomberg A demonstrator kneels on the ground as he is arrested by riot police during a protest in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. China described Hong Kong's new security law as a "sword of Damocles" hanging over its most strident critics, after Beijing asserted broad new powers to rein in sources of opposition, from pro-democracy protesters to news agencies to overseas dissidents.

Britain and some two dozen Western countries urged China to reconsider the law, saying Beijing must preserve the right to assembly and free press.

The United States condemned the legislation as a violation of Beijing's international commitments and vowed to go on acting "against those who smothered Hong Kong’s freedom and autonomy."

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Riot police patrol at a shopping mall during a protest after China's parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong © Reuters/TYRONE SIU Riot police patrol at a shopping mall during a protest after China's parliament passes a national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong

Washington, already in dispute with China over trade, the South China Sea and the coronavirus, began eliminating Hong Kong's special status under U.S. law on Monday, halting defence exports and restricting technology access.

Dominic Raab holding a sign: Daily COVID-19 News Conference in London © Reuters/Pippa Fowles/10 Downing St Daily COVID-19 News Conference in London

China, which has rejected criticism of the law by Britain, the European Union, Japan, Taiwan and others, said it would retaliate.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, in a video message to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, urged the international community to "respect our country's right to safeguard national security".

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  UK extends immigration rights for 3M eligible Hong Kongers LONDON (AP) — Britain announced Wednesday that it was extending residency rights to up to 3 million Hong Kongers eligible for the British National Overseas passport, stressing that it would uphold its historic duty to a former British colony after Beijing imposed a sweeping new national security law in Hong Kong. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told lawmakers that Britain was changing its immigration rules to allow BNO passport holders a special route to citizenship. Eligible individuals from Hong Kong will have the right to live and work in the U.K. for five years without the current six-month limit.

a person sitting at a table: FILE PHOTO: House Democrats gather ahead of vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in Washington © Reuters/Yuri Gripas FILE PHOTO: House Democrats gather ahead of vote on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in Washington

She said the law would not undermine the city's autonomy or its independent judiciary.

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

As the law was passed in Beijing, the Chinese People's Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong held a drill which included exercises to stop suspicious vessels and arrest fugitives, according to the Weibo social media account of state-run CCTV's military channel.

'OVERPOWERING'

In their most severe form, crimes will be punishable with life in prison. Punishments otherwise largely go up to 10 years. Properties related to crimes could be frozen or confiscated.

The security legislation will supersede existing Hong Kong laws where there is a conflict and mainland Chinese authorities could exercise jurisdiction over some major cases.

Interpretation powers belong to the Chinese parliament's top decision-making body.

Judges for security cases will be appointed by the city's chief executive.

According to the law, a new national security agency will be set up for the first time in Hong Kong and will not be under the jurisdiction of the local government. Authorities can carry out surveillance and wire-tap people suspected of endangering national security, it said.

Hong Kong: Suspects arrested by Chinese agents possibly tried in China

 Hong Kong: Suspects arrested by Chinese agents possibly tried in China HONG-KONG-EVENTS-CHINA: Hong Kong: Suspects arrested by Chinese agents possibly tried in China © Reuters / THOMAS PETER HONG KONG: SUSPECTS ARRESTED BY CHINESE OFFICERS POSSIBLY JUDGED IN CHINA BEIJING / HONG KONG (Reuters) - Suspects arrested by Beijing's newly-established security office in Hong Kong could be tried in mainland China, a senior Chinese official said on Wednesday, which should feed concerns when a decried security law came into force in the territory.

Those asking foreign countries to sanction, blockade or take other hostile action against Hong Kong or China could be guilty of colluding with foreign forces.

Authorities shall take necessary measures to strengthen the management and servicing of foreign countries' and international organisations' branches in Hong Kong, as well as foreign media and NGOs in the city, the law says.

"We can all start again," pro-Beijing heavyweight Maria Tam, a member of China’s National People’s Congress, told reporters.

Activists and pro-democracy politicians said they would defy a police ban on a rally on the handover anniversary on Wednesday.

"We will never accept the passing of the law, even though it is so overpowering," said Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai.

A majority in Hong Kong opposes the legislation, a poll conducted for Reuters this month showed, but support for the protests has fallen to only a slim majority.

Dozens of supporters of Beijing popped champagne corks and waved Chinese flags in celebration in front of government headquarters.

"I'm very happy," said one elderly man, surnamed Lee.

"This will leave anti-China spies and people who brought chaos to Hong Kong with nowhere to go."

(Additional reporting by Clare Jim, Yanni Chow, Carol Mang, Joyce Zhou, Tyrone Siu, Jessie Pang, James Pomfret, Greg Torode and Anne Marie Roantree in Hong Kong; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel and Giles Elgood)

U.S. sends carriers to South China Sea during Chinese drills - WSJ .
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