Chief Executive Carrie Lam has defended Beijing’s right to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Speaking via video link on Tuesday, the leader said the law was justified due to escalating violence “fanned by external forces” and the “threat of terrorist acts.” Her comments referenced cases of people possessing explosives and firearms during months of sometimes violent citywide pro-democracy protests.

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Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

She said youngsters had been radicalised into advocating independence and self-determination, adding activists had called on foreign governments to impose sanctions on Hong Kong.

“All those countries which have pointed their fingers at China have their own national security legislation in place,” she said.

“We could think of no valid reason why China alone should be inhibited from enacting national security legislation to protect every corner of its territory and all of its nationals.”

Inserted into Basic Law

In the morning, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress passed the law by a unanimous vote. State media later reported that Chinese leader Xi Jinping had signed off on it.

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The country’s top legislative body then inserted the legislation into Annex III – a list of national laws applicable in the city – of the Basic Law, after which it could be gazetted by the Hong Kong government and become officially enforceable as early as the evening.

The full text of the law – criminalising secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – has not been revealed to the public as of yet.

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Public broadcaster RTHK cited sources as saying the law could impose different levels of punishment by severity, ranging from three years’ to life imprisonment.

It would reportedly not be retroactive – targeting acts done before its promulgation – but activities occurring two years prior could be adduced as evidence of new crimes.

The central government may extradite suspects for trial in mainland China upon request from the chief executive or the newly-established national security agency in Hong Kong when “the HKSAR has not enforced [the laws], had no means to enforce [the laws], or upon serious danger to national security,” RTHK reported.

Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.