HONG KONG — China on Tuesday approved a contentious national security law for Hong Kong that takes direct aim at some of the actions of anti-government protesters last year, in a move many see as Beijing’s boldest yet to erase the legal firewall between the semi-autonomous territory and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Party system.
Details of the law remained under wraps until 11 p.m. (1500 GMT, 10 a.m. CDT), when it was published and took effect immediately.
The text specifies that those who destroy government facilities and utilities would be considered subversive. Damaging public transportation facilities and arson would constitute acts of terrorism. Any person taking part in secessionist activities, whether organizing or participating, will violate the law regardless of whether violence is used.
“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 law took effect ahead an hour before July 1, the 23rd anniversary of the territory’s passing from Britain to China. Amid protests in Hong Kong last year, demonstrators broke into the legislative building on the anniversary, spray painted slogans on the walls and heavily damaged the electronic voting system.
During months of protests, they frequently smashed subway ticket machines and electronic sensors at entry gates, and disrupted service by holding doors open so trains couldn’t leave the stations.
President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order promulgating the law after its approval by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It was to be added to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.