China’s top legislative body has passed the national security law for Hong Kong as it moves towards promulgation without local legislative oversight. It received all 162 votes in favour, according to local media.
The law will need to be overseen by Hong Kong’s Basic Law Committee before it is enacted in the city, which could be as soon as Wednesday.
Critics say the legislation – intended to prevent and stop acts deemed to threaten national security – would hobble freedoms and political dissent following months of sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations.
Moments after the news broke on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to answer reporters’ questions on the passing of the law at a weekly press conference ahead of her Executive Council meeting, saying it would be inappropriate for her to comment.
“Over the past two days, there have been a lot of speculation and reporting about the clauses and personnel arrangement. So I think at this moment, it is not appropriate for me to respond to any questions or relevant explanations,” she said.
“When the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPCSC) passes the legislation, I’m not saying it must be passed at this meeting. If the NPCSC votes and passes the law and lists it in Annex lll of the Basic Law – to be promulgated by the Hong Kong SAR government – then my principal officials and I will definitely do our best to respond to questions.”
The leader is expected to address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva via video later today.
State-run Xinhua News Agency reported initial details of the draft last Saturday, including plans to establish a Beijing-led national security bureau in Hong Kong, empowering the chief executive with the ability to select judges to handle national security crimes whilst giving Chinese authorities jurisdiction in such cases.
However, the content of the legislation has yet to be disclosed in full, leaving local officials in the dark.
Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Amnesty International’s China Team, urged the international community to ensure Hong Kong authorities adhere to their own human rights obligations: “The fact that the Chinese authorities have now passed this law without the people of Hong Kong being able to see it tells you a lot about their intentions. Their aim is to govern Hong Kong through fear from this point forward.”
“In implementing this law, the Hong Kong authorities must now strictly and demonstrably adhere to their own human rights obligations, and it is down to the international community to hold them to account.”
UK NGO Hong Kong Watch and Lord David Alton called for support for an International Life Boat Campaign on Monday. Alton said the law “will dismember One Country, Two Systems, silence dissent in the city, and rob Hong Kongers of their basic liberties and freedom, should spur all of us who have voiced concern and support for Hong Kong in the past few weeks into matching the words with deeds.”
He urged London to provide a path for Hongkongers “to study and work abroad as a pathway to citizenship. That’s why we need an international lifeboat campaign.”