China to put up new security office in Hong Kong


China will set up a security office in Hong Kong to gather intelligence and handle crimes considered threatening to national security, official state media announced.

State-owned Xinhua news agency said the new security law will override any local laws that conflict with it and the power to interpret this law belongs to the National People’s Congress in China.

The planned law has sparked protests and drawn international condemnation and critics warned it will destroy the freedoms Hong Kong enjoys but which are not available in mainland China.

Beijing has said it is determined to press ahead with the national security legislation despite heavy criticism from within Hong Kong and abroad.

On Friday the European Parliament voted to take China to the International Court of Justice in The Hague if the law was imposed.

But China says the law is needed to tackle separatist activity, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign elements and rejects criticism as interference in its affairs.

Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997 under an agreement centring on a “one country, two systems” principle that guaranteed certain freedoms for Hong Kong and that do not apply in the mainland.

Details were published after a three-day meeting of the main decision-making body in China’s parliament, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.

A new national security office in Hong Kong would deal with national security cases, but would also have other powers such as overseeing education about national security in Hong Kong schools.

Xinhua also said that Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam would be able to appoint specific judges to hear national security cases.

Ms. Lam has backed the proposed law and has denied that Hong Kong’s freedoms under the “one country, two systems” will be affected.

The Hong Kong government will be required to carry out most enforcement under the new law, but Beijing will be able to overrule the Hong Kong authorities in some cases.

“If the local laws… are inconsistent with this Law, the provisions of this Law shall apply. The power to interpret this law belongs to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress,” Xinhua said.

The process of creating and finalising legislation in China usually takes some years, BBC Reality Check’s Wanyuan Song says, with one law for Taiwan taking five years to pass from when it was first proposed.

But state media says the new security law planned for Hong Kong could be published this summer, although it was proposed just a few months ago, she adds.

The US says the law means Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to merit special treatment under US law.

This potentially paves the way for Hong Kong to be stripped of trading privileges, such as lower tariffs, meaning that the US would treat it the same as any other mainland Chinese city for trading purposes.

Meanwhile the UK says it will change its immigration rules and offer millions of people in Hong Kong “a route to citizenship” if China imposes the new law. (Source: BBC)