China approves national security law for Hong Kong
US Secretary of State says HK no longer qualifies for special treatment under US law
HONG KONG/BEIJING China's Parliament approved a decision yesterday to go forward with national security legislation for Hong Kong that democracy activists in the city and Western countries fear could erode its freedoms and jeopardise its role as a global financial hub.
China says the legislation will aim to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in the city, but the plan, unveiled in Beijing last week, triggered the first big protests in Hong Kong for months.
Members of China's Parliament, the National People's Congress, burst into prolonged applause when the tally showed 2,878 votes to one in favour of moving forward with legislation, with six abstentions.
Details of the law are expected to be drawn up in coming weeks. It is expected to be enacted before September.
Chinese authorities and the Beijing-backed government in Hong Kong have said there is no threat to the city's autonomy and the new law would be tightly focused.
China's Premier Li Keqiang said the law would be good for Hong Kong's long-term stability and prosperity and the "one country, two systems" formula would remain a national policy.
Conflict between China and the US would harm both sides while both stood to gain from cooperation, he told a news conference.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said her government would work with Beijing to complete the legislative work as soon as possible.
"The law will not affect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents," she said.
Democracy campaigners in the city were despondent, however.
"This is the death knell for Hong Kong, make no mistake of it, this is the end of 'one country, two systems'... the Hong Kong that we loved, a free Hong Kong," pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok told reporters.
Dozens of protesters gathered in a shopping mall to chant slogans but there was no repeat of disturbances the previous day when police made 360 arrests as thousands took to the streets in anger over the national security legislation proposed by China.
The US, Britain and the European Union have also expressed concern about the security legislation.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that Hong Kong no longer qualified for special treatment under US law, potentially dealing a crushing blow to its status as a major financial hub.
The proposed security law was "only the latest in a series of actions" undermining Hong Kong freedoms, Mr Pompeo told Congress.
"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," he said.
US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he will give a "very interesting" response but was vague on details.
"It's something you're going to be hearing about over the next, before the end of the week. Very powerfully, I think," he said, without giving more detail.
His spokesman Kayleigh McEnany said Mr Trump had told her he feels that Hong Kong's status as a global finance centre, alongside London and New York, was in danger. - REUTERS, AFP