Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing premier Carrie Lam has defended China’s sweeping national security law for the city before the United Nations, urging the international community to “respect our country’s right to safeguard national security.”
“I urge the international community to respect our country’s right to safeguard national security and Hong Kong people’s aspirations for stability and harmony,” she told the Human Rights Council in a video message.
Ms Lam added that the legislation would fill a “gaping hole” and would not undermine its autonomy.
“The legislation aims to prevent, curb and punish acts of cessation, subversion of state power, terrorist activities and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security. These crimes will be clearly defined in the law,” she said.
“We will only target an extremely small minority of people who have breached the law, while the life and property, basic rights and freedoms of the overwhelming majority of Hong Kong residents will be protected.”
Ms Lam also confirmed that the law would come in to effect today.
The top decision-making body of the Chinese legislature voted unanimously to adopt the Hong Kong national security legislation on Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress also adopted a decision to list the law in Annex III to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, Xinhua reported
Beijing says the law banning subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces is needed to return stability to Hong Kong after a year of angry pro-democracy protests.
Opponents fear it will demolish the business hub’s cherished political freedoms and hollow out its autonomy given similar laws are used to crush dissent on the authoritarian mainland.
In an unprecedented move, Beijing bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature to pass the law, which was signed off just six weeks after it was first announced.
Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents have yet to see the contents of the law.
Authorities in Beijing said “for the small minority who endanger national security, this law will be a sword hanging over their heads.”
But “for the vast majority of Hong Kong residents and foreigners in Hong Kong, this law is a guardian spirit that protects their freedoms,” the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said.
In response, EU leaders decried the new law. “We deplore the decision,” EU Council President Charles Michel told reporters following a video summit with South Korea’s president.
The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said the bloc is now discussing with “international partners” on any possible measures in response.
Rights groups, many western governments and the United Nations’ rights body have expressed alarm over the law.