China has approved a contentious law in an attempt to crack down on secessionist activity in Hong Kong, sparking fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory.
Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, confirmed in an interview with reporters.
“We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from stirring up trouble,” Tam said in the interview. “Don’t let Hong Kong be used as a tool to split the country.”
The South China Morning Post newspaper and public broadcaster RTHK, both citing unnamed sources, said the standing committee had approved the law unanimously Tuesday.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had declined to comment earlier in the day, while the Standing Committee was still meeting.
She did say that once the law is passed, “the Hong Kong government will announce it and promulgate it for implementation here, and then I and my senior officials will do our best to respond to everyone’s questions, especially regarding the enforcement of this national law.”
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 that at times descended into violence in Hong Kong last year.
Prominent Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong, as well as Agnes Chow and Nathan Law, issued statements on Facebook indicating that they would withdraw from pro-democracy organization Demosisto.
Wong said “worrying about life and safety” has become a real issue and that nobody will be able to predict the repercussions of the law, whether it is being extradited to China or facing jail terms of 10 years or more.
Over a hundred protesters gathered at a luxury mall in Hong Kong’s Central business district, chanting slogans including “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now,” with several holding up a “Hong Kong Independence” flag as well as posters condemning the national security law.
Police later cordoned off different areas of the mall, including the atrium, detaining and searching several protesters.
The law has met with strong opposition within Hong Kong and condemnation from former colonial ruler Britain, the U.S., the European Union and others.
For details on the story reported by Associated Press
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