China passes major controversial Hong Kong law – ignoring global outcry

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The law passed unanimously early this morning, with 162 members of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee giving the legislation their backing, SCMP reports.

It’s understood that the law will officially come into action on Wednesday.

It’s understood that Hong Kong activists are already making plans for civil disobedience in opposition to the law, and that thousands of police will be on standby.

Under the law, it will become a criminal act – with a maximum penalty of life in jail – to commit serious challenged to Beijing’s authority.

These include secession, or breaking away from the country; subversion, or undermining central government; terrorism; and collusion with foreign forces.

The law has been a major source of concern both in Hong Kong and around the globe over fears that it will curb personal freedoms, particularly in Hong Kong which has a level of autonomy from Beijing authorities.

Another issue with the legislation is its lack of transparency. SCMP adds that only a “handful” of Hong Kong officials were able to see a draft version of the law before it was passed.

As such, details of the law have not been made public, though some details have emerged.

For example, it’s reported that under the law Beijing will set up a national security office in Hong Kong with the aim of gathering intelligence on what it deems to be national security threats, and even send some cases to mainland China for trials, the BBC reports.

In addition, Beijing will have the final say in how the law should be interpreted, and not Hong Kong.

READ: Donald Trump tightens restrictions on exports in fresh blow to Hong Kong 

It has raised fears that Hong Kong’s judicial independence will be stripped away, and there are also concerns that government candidates who oppose the law would be disqualified from running in elections.

China was granted sovereignty over Hong Kong by Britain in 1997, on the condition that the “one country, two systems” principle be observed.

In essence this means that Hong Kong is able to have some freedoms, including an independent judiciary and democratic rights, which places in mainland China do not have.

It remains to be seen what implications the passing of the law will have internationally.

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Boris Johnson, for instance, had threatened that if China went ahead with the law then the UK would relax its immigration rules for certain Hong Kong residents and allow them to stay in Britain for longer than are currently able to.

Johnson said that the law would “curtain [Hong Kong’s] freedoms and drastically erode its autonomy”.

He added: “Britain would then have no choice but to uphold our profound ties of history and friendship with the people of Hong Kong”.

It’s thought that around 350,000 Hong Kong residents hold British National (Overseas) passports while a further 2.5 million would be able to apply for them.

Holders of these passports would be able to come to the UK for a renewable period of one year – up from six months currently – and also be given the right to work.

Meanwhile, China has announced visa restrictions on people from the US who “behave egregiously” in regards to the imposition of the Hong Kong law. It’s not known how many people this would effect.

It’s thought to be in retaliation to US visa restrictions on Chinese officials that were imposed just days prior due to the Hong Kong legislation.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “President Trump promised to punish the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials who were responsible for eviscerating Hong Kong’s freedoms. Today, we are taking action to do just that.

“Today, I am announcing visa restrictions on current and former CCP officials who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy … or undermining human rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong”.

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