Under the sweeping draft legislation, Beijing would be able to override Hong Kong’s prized independent legal system and mainland officials will establish a national security office in Hong Kong, further eroding the city’s autonomy.
And while Hong Kong courts will preside over national security criminal cases, mainland Chinese security organs will have the power to “exercise jurisdiction” over cases that “jeopardize national security under specific circumstances.”
The characteristics of those circumstances were not defined. Criminal offenses under the draft law include secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security, according to Xinhua.
Beijing’s national security office in Hong Kong will guide and supervise local officials’ policing of national security, and will also “collect and analyze national security intelligence,” Xinhua reported on Saturday.
The Hong Kong government will also be required to set up a national security commission, headed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Beijing will appoint a national security adviser to sit on the Hong Kong commission.
According to Xinhua, the provisions in the national security law will kick in when local laws of the semi-autonomous region are inconsistent.
If passed, the law will be imposed by Beijing, bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature, via a rarely used constitutional backdoor.
Those standing for election or public office in Hong Kong must swear to uphold the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, and pledge allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).
In response to the new details, Lam said the Hong Kong government “fully supports legislative work for safeguarding national security” and is “undertaking the necessary preparatory work.”
New units will be set up in the Hong Kong Police Force and Department of Justice to “shoulder the major responsibilities in implementing the relevant enforcement work,” she added.
Backlash against the law
The proposed legislation has been widely criticized by opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong, human rights groups and politicians worldwide.
And Taiwan earned a scolding from Beijing after the self-governed island set up an office to help Hong Kong citizens who have moved to Taiwan, or intend to do so, for “political reasons.”
And Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the country’s No. 2 leader, said after parliamentary meetings in Beijing that the law was designed for the “steady implementation of ‘one country, two systems'” — a formula that guarantees Hong Kong its autonomy and freedoms — and for “Hong Kong’s long term prosperity and stability.”
“They’ve practically taken away our soul. Our soul we’ve been treasuring all these years, the rule of law, human rights, they’re taking away all the core values we’ve come to know,” she said.
“From now on, Hong Kong is nothing but just another mainland Chinese city.”
CNN’s Nectar Gan, James Griffiths, Angus Watson and Phoebe Lai contributed reporting and writing.