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China endorses Hong Kong national security law, vastly expanding grip over city

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 28/05/2020 Anna Fifield
a group of people posing for the camera: Chinese President Xi Jinping, bottom center, at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. © Andy Wong/AP Chinese President Xi Jinping, bottom center, at the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday.

China’s rubber-stamp parliament approved a plan to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong that will dramatically increase Beijing’s power over the city and could bring about an end to its status as an international financial capital.

The National People’s Congress, wrapping up its annual meeting Thursday, voted to forward the plan to its standing committee for drafting, but the outlines have already been well telegraphed.

The law is Beijing’s boldest move yet to undercut Hong Kong’s autonomy and is a direct response to the pro-democracy protests that broke out in the city last year. Such protests would fall under the category of secessionist activities and subversion of state power under the new law.

Western officials have condemned the plan, which would effectively end Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” framework, but none more forcefully than the Trump administration.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signaled Wednesday that Washington was preparing to strip Hong Kong of the special status that enabled the United States to treat it as an entity distinct from China. “Today, I reported to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China, given facts on the ground,” Pompeo tweeted.

Protesters in Hong Kong have defied orders not to gather this week, taking to the streets and facing down riot police to demonstrate against the plan. Hundreds of people, including school children in uniform and others who were simply shouting slogans, had been apprehended or arrested during the protests.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been growing steadily over the two past years, with the world’s two biggest economies clashing on everything from trade and technology to human rights and press freedom.

But their relationship has become outright hostile this year with the emergence of a new coronavirus in China, which has now killed 100,000 people in the United States. The Trump administration is actively blaming Beijing for allowing the virus to spread, with some officials even suggesting, without proof, the ruling Communist Party deliberately “seeded” it overseas.

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