BEIJING (Dispatches) -- China on Friday proposed national security law in Hong Kong as part of measures aimed at restoring calm to the semi-autonomous city after seven months of violent riots last year.
The draft proposal, presented to China’s parliament at the opening of its annual session on Friday morning, said the security law would "guard against, stop and punish any separatism, subversion of the national regime, terrorist group activities and such behaviors that seriously harm national security”.
The semi-autonomous Chinese territory was rocked by riots starting last June, when some citizens across the city began protesting against a proposed extradition bill. The proposal has since been withdrawn.
The protesters often heavily vandalized shops and public property and attacked citizens believed to be pro-government. However, since the government imposed a ban on public meetings at the end of March to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong has been relatively calm.
The Chinese government says the United States and Britain have been fanning the flames of unrest in Hong Kong by supporting the protesters.
Hong Kong has been governed under the "one-country, two-system” model since the city — a former British colony — was returned to China in 1997.
Hong Kong’s leader said in a statement on Friday that the local government would "fully cooperate” with Beijing over the national security, and "complete the legislation as soon as possible to discharge its responsibility”.
Carrie Lam said she "firmly” believed the law was aimed at "effectively preventing and curbing actions that seriously endanger national security”.
During a daily briefing in Beijing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian defended the proposed legislation and expressed opposition to any kind of foreign interference in China’s domestic affairs.
The United States has also courted Taiwan in an attempt to counter China, which seeks Taipei’s reunification ever since the island broke away from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.
China claims full sovereignty over the island and almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. The U.S., which has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei by law, has extensive military ties with the island, selling it advanced military hardware.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the start of the annual meeting of China’s parliament that his country would "resolutely oppose and deter any separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence”.
The Chinese government announced on Friday that it will increase its military budget by a slower 6.6 percent in 2020.
During the opening session of its annual National People’s Congress, the government said the budget would be set at $178 billion for the year — the second highest in the world after the U.S.