China’s legislature has approved a decision to force a controversial national security law on Hong Kong, in an extraordinary and unprecedented move aimed at bringing the semi-autonomous territory further under Beijing’s control.
On Thursday, China’s National People’s Congress voted and passed a draft decision that paves the way for anti-sedition laws to be directly enacted in Hong Kong, bypassing the semi-autonomous territory’s legislature. The Legislative Council has been unable to pass similar legislation on its own because of widespread public opposition.
Now, a detailed law will be drafted and could be enacted in a matter of weeks, Chinese state media said.
The move by China has prompted widespread condemnation and anxiety inside and outside Hong Kong about Beijing’s plans for the semi-autonomous territory. Riot police were deployed across Hong Kong to stop any potential protests.
The vote comes after at least 360 people were arrested in Hong Kong on Wednesday, as police fired pepper pellets and detained suspected protesters in a series of skirmishes that broke out across the city.
Demonstrators were protesting against a bill to criminalise disrespect of the Chinese national anthem and the looming national security laws. On Thursday, debate over the national anthem bill was suspended after a lawmaker opposing the law dropped what was believed to be a rotting plant onto the chamber’s floor.