BEIJING (AP) – The Chinese legislator has begun on Sunday to revise a controversial national security law for Hong Kong, which critics worldwide believe will seriously compromise human rights in semi-autonomous Chinese territory.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress took up the issue at the beginning of a three-day session, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. China has said it is determined to enact the law and it is expected to be approved on Tuesday.
The US says it will respond by ending the favorable trading conditions granted to the former British colony after it came under Chinese control in 1997. The Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday to impose sanctions on companies and individuals – including the police – who undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy or limit the freedoms promised to residents.
The Senate bill targets police units that crack down on protesters in Hong Kong, and Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for enforcing national security laws. The measure would also impose sanctions on banks that do business with entities that break the law.
Last week, a former United Nations human rights chief and eight former UN special envoys urged the body’s secretary-general to appoint a special envoy in Hong Kong on what they consider to be a “humanitarian tragedy” . Britain has said it would issue passports to as many as 3 million of Hong Kong’s 7.8 million residents.
Beijing has denounced all these measures as gross interference in its internal affairs.
The law would criminalize secession, undermining of state power, terrorist activity, and conspiracy with foreign troops to compromise national security. Critics say Hong Kong’s legal statutes explain all such matters and Beijing is determined to use the law to chase political opponents.
Beijing’s central government would also set up a national security agency in Hong Kong to gather and analyze intelligence and handle criminal matters related to national security.
Few details have been disclosed, but it appears Beijing has ultimate power over government appointments, bringing to mind the relative independence promised by Hong Kong in a 1984 joint statement with Britain, which is considered an international treaty , is further reduced.
The measures are widely regarded as the major erosion to date of the British rule of law in Hong Kong and the high degree of autonomy China promised that Hong Kong would have according to a “one country, two systems” principle.
China had long demanded such a law for Hong Kong, but efforts were suspended in light of massive protests in 2003. Beijing seemed to have lost patience in light of the widespread and often violent anti-government demonstrations last year, and moved to Hong Kong’s own legislative council and national law establish what critics consider to be weak legal grounds.
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