Suspects arrested by the mainland’s new security office to be set up in Hong Kong under the controversial new law will be tried in the mainland, Zhang Xiaoming from the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office said on Wednesday.
The city’s legal system cannot be expected to implement the laws of the mainland, Zhang told a press conference on the national security law in Beijing.
Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, had erupted in violent protests in June last year over an extradition bill that, if implemented, could have brought suspects to the mainland for trial.
That bill was subsequently withdrawn but with the new law, which came into effect Tuesday, Beijing has pushed it through anyway.
There’s unlikely to be similar protests against the new law, which was signed into a legislation by President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, as it could attract stringent punishment.
Crimes committed in Hong Kong related to secession, subversion, terrorism and working with foreign forces will be punishable up to life in prison, as Beijing on Wednesday revealed details of the controversial new security law that came into effect in the financial hub Tuesday night.
What is likely to increase criticism of the law is that the activities of a new national security agency to be set up in Hong Kong will be beyond the jurisdiction of the local government.
Activities of both permanent and non-permanent residents will come under the jurisdiction of the law.
The new law will give Beijing – the seat of the Communist Party of China-ruled government – overarching responsibility for Hong Kong’s national security affairs.
Damaging certain transportation vehicles, equipment will be considered an act of terrorism, the new law says, adding that authorities can monitor and wire-tap persons suspected of endangering national security.
The full text of the legislation Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) was put out hours after Xi signed the bill into law.
“Convicted criminals will be disqualified from running for public office, and people in public office who are found guilty of the crimes will be removed from their posts,” a text of the law published by official news agency, Xinhua, early on Wednesday said.
“The law shall apply to acts committed after its entry into force for the purpose of conviction and imposition of punishment,” according to its provision.
The territory of Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997.
Under a unique Sino-British agreement supposed to protect certain freedoms that people in mainland China do not enjoy – including freedom of speech and the freedom to gather.
Critics say the new law could curb and crush exactly those freedoms and jail people for showing dissent.
Described by Beijing as a “sword” hanging over the heads of those endangering national security, the law has taken effect just six weeks since it was first unveiled.
Hong Kong’s leader, the pro-Beijing chief executive Carrie Lam, defended the law, saying it filled a “gaping hole” in national security.
Lam said the law will only target a “small minority of illegal, criminal acts and activities”.
“Rights and freedoms including freedom of speech, of the press, of publication, of assembly and demonstration, will be protected in accordance with the law,” the new legislation says.
The law gives Beijing jurisdiction over “very serious” national security crimes.
With 66 articles in six chapters, the law lays down the duties and government bodies of the HKSAR for safeguarding national security and four categories of offences — secession, subversion, terrorist activities, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security — and their corresponding penalties.
Prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong announced he’s stepping down as leader of his anti-Beijing group Demosisto, soon after China passed the controversial law.
“After much internal deliberation, we have decided to disband and cease all operations as a group, given the circumstances,” Demosisto said on Twitter.
Chinese foreign ministry said it will take necessary countermeasures to “firmly safeguard” its national interests in response to a decision by the US to end special treatment for Hong Kong over the new law.