China on Friday introduced the draft of a controversial national security law in Hong Kong in its parliament to tighten Beijing's control over the former British colony, in what could be the biggest blow to the territory's autonomy and personal freedoms since 1997 when it came under the Chinese rule.
Zhang Yesui said the National People's Congress would deliberate a bill on "establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security". Protests were largely subdued in recent months because of coronavirus restrictions. Demonstrators marched on the city's legislature and scuffles broke out between pro-democracy and pro-Beijing lawmakers. He didn't disclose further details.
President Donald Trump gave a vague initial response that nevertheless warned of a stronger reaction.
"I don't know what it is, because nobody knows yet. If it happens, we'll address that issue very strongly", Trump said.
The plan for the law was unveiled during the opening session of China's annual National People's Congress on Friday and follows seven months of fierce protests in Hong Kong past year against Beijing's rule. It also provides that rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of the press, of assembly, of association and others, will be ensured by law in Hong Kong, and that the provisions of the two United Nations covenants on human rights (the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) shall remain in force.
"We are concerned about the situation in Hong Kong".More news: Experimental COVID-19 vaccine shown to be effective in monkeys
A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry's office of the commissioner to Hong Kong said in a statement Pompeo's actions can not scare the Chinese people and that Beijing will safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests. "No country has the right to interfere", he said. "No country will allow separatist activities and other activities endangering national security on its territory".
China's move this week would circumvent Hong Kong's legislature by having it imposed by the national parliament, according to Wong and other campaigners. It also said it hoped global society would hold a "fair and objective" view of the NPC's decision.
"Hong Kong people will have to face the choice for their future", said one comment on the Telegram platform often used by protesters, calling for people to rally on Sunday.
The United States reacted swiftly to China's announcement, with State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus warning that imposing such a law on Hong Kong would be "highly destabilising, and would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the worldwide community".
"The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its worldwide obligations, and respect Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law", he said, adding that the USA stands "with the people of Hong Kong".
In a statement, she announced that the Hong Kong government will "complete the legislation as soon as possible to discharge its responsibility of safeguarding national security".More news: ViacomCBS to License John Krasinski Web Series
The proposed legislation would permit Beijing to sidestep Hong Kong's own legislative body to limit protests or other activities that Beijing's authoritarian rulers consider subversive.
"Make no mistake about it, that Beijing, the Central People's Government, has completely breached its promise to the Hong Kong people, a promise that was enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and the Basic Law", he said.
Some democratic lawmakers also protested during an afternoon committee meeting at the Legislative Council.
The law has also rattled financial markets, causing Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index (HSI) to drop by more than five percent.
The virus has sent the Hong Kong economy into a tailspin, fuelling a record 8.9 percent contraction in the first three months of the year, with worse expected in the current quarter.More news: Inflation rises in Nigeria for 8th straight month