FILE PHOTO: Riot police raise a warning flag as they disperse anti-government demonstrators at Central District against the second reading of a controversial national anthem law in Hong Kong, China May 27, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

China public security ministry pledges to 'direct and support' HK police

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s public security ministry pledged to “direct and support” the Hong Kong police force after China’s parliament approved a decision to impose a national security law on the semi-autonomous territory, highlighting Beijing’s intention to take a more hands-on law-enforcement role in the city.

China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) - the national police force - would use “all efforts to direct and support the Hong Kong police to stop violence and restore order”, it said in a statement released late on Thursday.

Hong Kong’s police force is independent from China and the MPS currently has no enforcement powers in the former British colony.

“This is the clearest indication yet that the Public Security Ministry will have the authority to supervise Hong Kong police in matters of national security,” said Alfred Wu, associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

China says the national security law will aim to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong, with details expected to be drawn up in coming weeks.

The new legislation will enable Beijing to establish intelligence agencies in Hong Kong, including a domestic intelligence agency potentially involving the MPS and the Ministry of State Security, China’s main intelligence agency.

Beijing is imposing national security legislation on Hong Kong after losing patience with the city’s inability to enact such laws on its own, which Hong Kong is required to do under the terms of its 1997 handover from British to Chinese rule. The decision, announced late last week, follows months of sometimes-violent anti-government protests last year in Hong Kong.

The legislation has sparked fresh protests in Hong Kong, with democracy activists, as well as trade bodies, diplomats and lawyers, fearing it could erode the city’s freedoms and jeopardise its role as a global financial hub.

The MPS statement called for “striking a severe blow against infiltration, subversion and sabotage by hostile forces at home and abroad” and for “conscientiously studying and implementing” the NPC’s decision on Hong Kong.