HONG KONG – New Hong Kong security laws came into effect on Wednesday that will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.
Hong Kong authorities threw a security blanket across the city early on Wednesday, the 23rd anniversary of the former British colony’s handover to Chinese rule, only hours after Beijing imposed the new national security laws on the city.
Dozens of foreign countries, including Britain and the United States, have decried the security laws, saying Beijing must preserve the right to assembly and free speech in the Asian financial hub.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, speaking at a regular news briefing Tuesday, called the move “regrettable,” noting that it had come in the face of “strong concerns from the international community and citizens of Hong Kong.”
China says the laws target a few “troublemakers” and accuses Britain and the United States of interfering in internal matters and fomenting unrest in Hong Kong.
Below are details of the laws, which took effect Wednesday.
- Crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces punishable by up to life in prison.
- The activities of a new national security agency and its personnel in Hong Kong will not be under the jurisdiction of local government.
- The central government in Beijing has an overarching responsibility for national security affairs in Hong Kong.
- Anyone convicted of violating security legislation will not be allowed to stand in any Hong Kong elections.
- Rights and freedoms, including freedom of speech, of the press, of publication, of assembly and demonstration, will be protected in accordance with the law.
- Companies or groups that violate a national security law will be fined and could have operations suspended.
- Damaging certain transportation vehicles and equipment will be considered an act of terrorism.
- Authorities can surveil and wiretap persons suspected of endangering national security.
- The law will apply to permanent and nonpermanent residents of Hong Kong.
- The law says the management of foreign NGOs and news agencies in Hong Kong will be strengthened.
- The leader of Hong Kong will appoint judges for national security cases
- Property related to crimes under legislation could be frozen or confiscated
- Mainland authorities will exercise jurisdiction in “complex” cases such as those involving a foreign country, or serious situations that pose a major or imminent threat to national security.