The US, EU, Taiwan and others condemned the passing of the law, inciting China to respond by denouncing foreign interference.

China’s passing of a new national security law for Hong Kong late on Tuesday evening prompted international criticism and fear among pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong.

The swiftly enacted legislation grants Beijing broad new powers to quell the protest movement that engulfed the semi-autonomous city last year and subsequently evolved into an open challenge against the Chinese government.

The law prohibits acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces - penalties stretch to life imprisonment.

Since it was announced in May, the national security law has been shrouded in secrecy. The Hong Kong government only published the fully detailed text to reveal the extent of its powers after it came into effect last night.

The law’s passing has triggered strong reactions in Hong Kong and around the world:

Hong Kong

The law was passed on the eve of the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from the United Kingdom to China in 1997.

“It will only target an extremely small minority of people who have breached the law, while the life and property, basic rights and freedoms of the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong residents will be protected,” said Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam.

Critics say that the law will banish dissent and undermine the city’s autonomy under its “one country, two systems” framework.

Alan Leong, the leader of the pro-democracy Civic Party, and former chair of the Hong Kong Bar Association, called it “the worst form of authoritarian rule by law.”

The provisions have already had an effect.

Many activists deleted social media accounts ahead of the legal implementation, while several pro-democracy and pro-independence political groups disbanded or moved their operations overseas.

Less than 24 hours after it was announced, the law was applied in the arrest of a man holding a Hong Kong independence flag, according to the police.

Taiwan

“China promised that Hong Kong would remain unchanged for 50 years. The adoption of the National Security Law makes people feel that this commitment is indeed a blow to public confidence,” said Taiwanese President, Tsai Ing-wen.

In response to the new law, Taiwan opened an office in Taipei on Wednesday to assist people fleeing Hong Kong, with a senior minister saying Taiwan hoped to attract talent and capital from the city.

“[This law] not only targets residents in Hong Kong. It’s actually a supreme decree issued by the Celestial Empire to people all over the world,” said Chen Ming-tong, head of Taiwan’s policy making Mainland Affairs Council.

US

Beijing’s increasing hold over Hong Kong has been a point of contention between the US and China.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Chinese government’s “draconian national security law ends free Hong Kong and exposes the Party’s greatest fear: the free will and free thinking of its own people.”

The Speaker of the House, the Democrat Nancy Pelosi, called the law “brutal” with the purpose “to frighten, intimidate and suppress the speech of Hong Kongers.”

Hours before the law was passed, Pompeo said the US would stop exporting defence equipment to Hong Kong over security concerns as it no longer saw the financial hub as separate from mainland China.

UK

“We will be looking at the law very carefully and we will want to scrutinize it properly to understand whether it is in conflict with the Joint Declaration between the UK and China,” said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

While Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” about the law, he added that he would not be drawn into “sinophobia” over other issues, such as the decision to allow Huawei equipment to be used in Britain’s 5G mobile data network.

“China has chosen to break their promises to the people of Hong Kong and go against their obligations to the international community. The UK will not turn our backs on the commitments we have made to the people of Hong Kong,” said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

The UK has been indicating that it will change its immigration rules and offer millions of people from Hong Kong a pathway to acquire UK citizenship should the Chinese go ahead with these new legal restrictions.

European Union

“This law risks seriously undermining the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong and having a detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law,” said European Council President Charles Michel. “We deplore this decision.”

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “We have indeed consistently said that China would risk very negative consequences if it went ahead with this law, including for business confidence, China’s reputation, public perception in Hong Kong and internationally.”

The European Parliament has passed a non-binding resolution urging EU member states to adopt “sanctions and asset freezes against Chinese officials responsible for devising and implementing policies that violate human rights.”

It also recommended that the EU and its member states file a lawsuit before the International Court of Justice should the national security law be made official.

Australia, New Zealand

Foreign Minister Marise Payne expressed that Australia was “troubled” by the legislation and its implications for Hong Kong’s judicial independence.

“That this decision was made without the direct participation of Hong Kong’s people, legislature or judiciary is a further cause for concern. The people of Hong Kong will make their own assessments of how this decision will affect their city’s future,” Payne said in a statement on Wednesday morning.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Winston Peters said “New Zealand has consistently emphasized its serious concern about the imposition of this legislation on Hong Kong without inclusive consultation or the proper involvement of all Hong Kong’s institutions.”

China

In response to international criticism, Beijing has insisted that the US and other governments should stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs.

“The issue is purely China’s internal affairs, and no foreign country has the right to interfere,” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

“The Chinese government is unswervingly determined to safeguard the interests of national sovereignty, security and development, to implement the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, and to oppose any external force interfering in Hong Kong affairs.”

In retaliation for visa restrictions announced by the US, Beijing said it will impose visa restrictions on Americans with “egregious conduct relating to Hong Kong.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies