China’s state-run news agency announced the government’s intentions to create a new national security bureau in Hong Kong Saturday, in a highly controversial move toward strengthening its security reach in the semi-autonomous region.
Xinhua News Agency also reported that new regulations will require all bodies in Hong Kong’s government, from finance to immigration, to directly report to the central government in China.
An executive director will reportedly be assigned by the Central People's Government, which is an “organ” of the People’s Republic of China, who will chair the responsibilities of “safeguarding” China’s national security interests.
The new security bureau will analyze national security situations in Hong Kong and “provide comments and suggestions for major strategies and policies,” according to the Xinhua report.
China passed a draft of the new national security laws Friday, which targets four new levels of criminal offenses in Hong Kong, including succession, subversion of state power, local terrorist activities, and collaborating with foreign or external foreign forces to endanger national security.
However, China has not clarified how each of these criminal offenses is determined.
The new security measures proposed by the Chinese government have received widespread criticism from the U.S. and several other nations.
The Group of Seven (G-7) condemned China’s efforts to exert increased security powers over Hong Kong in a statement earlier this week, saying: “This action would curtail and threaten the fundamental rights and freedoms of all the population protected by the rule of law and the existence of an independent justice system.”
“China’s decision is not in conformity with the Hong Kong Basic Law and its international commitments under the principles of the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the G-7 statement read. “The proposed national security law would risk seriously undermining the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle and the territory’s high degree of autonomy.”
The Chinese government is attempting to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law, which was established after the British handed over the semi-autonomous territory in 1997 from previous colonial rule.
The article reported that Hong Kong will “enact laws on its own to prohibit any act of treason, secession, sedition [or] subversion against the Central People's Government.” However, such a law has never been passed due to widespread protests.
“We strongly deplore and firmly oppose the joint statement issued by the G-7 foreign ministers,” a Chinese ministry spokesperson said in response to the statement earlier this week. “China’s determination in promoting the national security law in Hong Kong is unwavering.”
Instating a new security bureau in Hong Kong is just one additional step China is taking to exert more control over Hong Kong after years of pro-democracy protests in the region.
Demonstrations erupted in 2019 after the Chinese government sought to pass an extradition bill that would allow China to extradite “criminals” from Hong Kong to mainland China to be tried.
Chinese government officials have argued Hong Kong has become a safeguard for “criminals”.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has openly criticized China’s moves to exert more control over the region, declaring last month that “Hong Kong no longer enjoys a high degree of autonomy.”
Tawain and the United Kingdom have announced efforts to help citizens of Hong Kong leave as China tights its grip over the region, including offering a path to citizenship in the U.K. for up to three million Hong Kong residents.
The State Department could not immediately be reached for comment on China’s latest push for increased security control in Hong Kong.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.