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China passes controversial Hong Kong national security law

A woman walks past a promotional banner of the national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. China has approved a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, sparking fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
A woman walks past a promotional banner of the national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. China has approved a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, sparking fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) (Kin Cheung/AP)

Beijings top legislative body has unanimously passed a controversial and wide-reaching national security law for Hong Kong, which critics fear could be used to repress free speech after mass pro-democracy protests swept across the region last year.

The standing committee of the National Peoples Congress approved the measure Tuesday morning, and President Xi Jinping signed an order promulgating the law a short time later, the official Xinhua News Agency confirmed.

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The bill contains six articles and 66 clauses that will go into effect immediately, local news outlets reported.

We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from stirring up trouble,” said Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kongs sole representative on the Standing Committee.

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Dont let Hong Kong be used as a tool to split the country.”

The passing of the bill has been mostly shrouded in secrecy and its contents have yet to be published.

Authorities in Beijing earlier this month told the South China Morning Post they would only make public the full text after the law was passed. Hong Kongs chief executive, Carrie Lam, meanwhile has said she was unable to offer details because the matter was still being deliberated by lawmakers.

The legislation is reportedly meant to criminalize secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces, but critics worry it could effectively criminalize any sort of dissension. It also marks what they call the biggest erosion to date of Hong Kongs British-style rule of law and the high degree of autonomy Beijing promised Hong Kong would enjoy at least through 2047.

Its referred to asone country, two systems,” which has allowed for Hong Kong to retain limited democracy and civil liberties after coming under Chinese rule.

Lam, in a video message to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday, said the law wouldonly target an extremely small minorityof lawbreakers, would not be retroactive, and that mainland legal bodies would only have jurisdiction inrare, specified situations.”

The legislation also calls for a new office in Hong Kong specifically aimed at investigation national security cases, though it would also have other powers, including overseeing education about national security.

In addition, the city will also be required to establish its own national security commission to enforce the laws, with a Beijing-appointed adviser.

The sweeping national security measures were in part sparked by mass protests in Hong Kong, sparked by the passage of an extradition bill that critics say eroded the special legal status of Hong Kong. It has since been shelved.

With News Wire Services

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