China imposes security law on HK
UK ‘deeply concerned’ about the security law
BEIJING, June 30: China imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong on Tuesday, a historic move that critics and many western governments fear will smother the finance hub's freedoms and hollow out its autonomy.
As the law was signed by President Xi Jinping little more than six weeks after it was first unveiled, Beijing described it as a "sword" hanging over the heads of those who endanger national security.
The contents of the law have so far been kept secret from Hong Kong's 7.5 million inhabitants, sparking alarm, anger and fear.
"It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before," prominent democracy campaigner Joshua Wong tweeted as his political party Demosisto announced it was disbanding.
"With sweeping powers and ill-defined law, the city will turn into a #secretpolicestate."
Some Hong Kongers on Tuesday said they were deleting Twitter accounts and scrubbing other social media platforms.
In contrast, former city leader Leung Chun-ying took to Facebook to offer bounties of up to HK$1 million ($130,000) for anyone who could help secure the first prosecutions under the new legislation or track down people who have recently fled the city.
The United States, Britain, the European Union and the United Nations rights watchdog have all voiced fears it could be used to stifle criticism of Beijing, which wields similar laws to crush dissent on the mainland.
The law bypassed Hong Kong's fractious legislature and comes into effect on Tuesday evening, according to the city's current leader Carrie Lam.
"The fact that Hong Kong people will only come to know what's really in this new law after the fact is more than preposterous," Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker, told AFP.
As part of the 1997 handover from Britain, Hong Kong was guaranteed certain freedoms -- as well as judicial and legislative autonomy -- for 50 years in a deal known as "One Country, Two Systems".
The formula helped to cement the city's status as a world-class business hub, bolstered by a reliable judiciary and political freedoms unseen on the mainland.
Meanwhile, Britain on Tuesday voiced fears at China's passing of a new national security law for Hong Kong, and said it would look to see if it broke an agreement between the two countries.
Both Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said they were "deeply concerned" after the legislation was approved by Beijing's rubber-stamp parliament. -AFP