China approved a contentious national security law that will allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, a move many see as Beijing's boldest yet to erase the legal firewall between the semi-autonomous territory and mainland China's authoritarian Communist Party system. Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong's sole representative on the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, confirmed to reporters Tuesday the law had been passed, per the AP. He said punishments wouldn't include the death penalty but didn't elaborate. "We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from stirring up trouble," Tam said. "Don't let Hong Kong be used as a tool to split the country." The government has said the legislation is aimed at curbing subversive, secessionist, and terrorist activities, as well as foreign intervention in the city's affairs.
It follows months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong last year that at times descended into violence. Speaking in a video message to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the law would "only target an extremely small minority" of lawbreakers, wouldn't be retroactive, and that mainland legal bodies would only have jurisdiction in "rare, specified situations." Critics say it's the most significant erosion to date of Hong Kong's British-style rule of law and the high degree of autonomy that Beijing promised Hong Kong would enjoy at least through 2047 under a so-called "one country, two systems" framework. The law's passage "represents the greatest threat to human rights in the city's recent history," says Joshua Rosenzweig, the head of Amnesty International's China Team. Much more here.
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