HONG KONG (Dispatches) — China on Tuesday approved a national security law that will allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong.
President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order promulgating the law after it was approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It will be added to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.
China’s liaison office in Hong Kong issued a statement warning opponents of the law not to "underestimate the party center’s determination to safeguard Hong Kong’s national security” or its willingness and ability to enforce the new rules.
On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s government will mark the 23rd anniversary of the territory’s passing from British to Chinese control. A series of official events are scheduled and a heavy police presence is expected to deter riots of the type that rocked the city for the second half of last year.
"We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from stirring up trouble,” said Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the Standing Committee "Don’t let Hong Kong be used as a tool to split the country.”
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 riots 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, would not be retroactive, and that mainland legal bodies would only have jurisdiction in "rare, specified situations.”
Ahead of the law’s passage, the Trump administration said Monday it will bar defense exports to Hong Kong and will soon require licenses for the sale of items that have both civilian and military uses.
"We cannot risk these items falling into the hands of the People’s Liberation Army, whose primary purpose is to uphold the dictatorship of the (ruling Communist Party) by any means necessary,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
"This issue is purely China’s internal affairs, and no foreign country has the right to interfere,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.
He said China would take necessary measures to protect its national interests in response to "the wrong acts of the United States.”