China’s legislature has approved Beijing’s decision to force a controversial national security law on Hong Kong in an extraordinary and unprecedented move aimed at bringing the semi-autonomous region further under control. On Thursday, China’s National People’s Congress voted and passed a draft decision that paves the way for anti-sedition laws directly enforced in Hong Kong, bypassing the legislature of the semi-autonomous region. The Legislative Council (LESCO) has been unable to pass similar legislation on its own due to widespread public protests. Now, a detailed law will be drafted and can be enacted in a few weeks, according to Chinese state media.
China’s move has prompted widespread condemnation and concern inside and outside Hong Kong about Beijing’s plans for a semi-autonomous region. Riot police were deployed in Hong Kong to prevent any possible protests. The vote came 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 clashes that broke across the city. Protesters were protesting the bill to criminalize the Chinese national anthem and disrespect for emerging national security laws. On Thursday, the national anthem bill was suspended after a law opposing the law dropped what was believed to be a rotting plant on the chamber floor.
After the protests, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his government would revoke Hong Kong’s special trade status as separate from China. “While the United States once hoped that independent and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself,” he said. Part of the law passed by the United States last year to put pressure on Beijing to safeguard Hong Kong’s autonomy, the move promises to further destabilize the already damaged relations between the United States and China. Under the law, the United States has to carry out an annual review of Hong Kong’s governance and whether it should be treated as different from China in trade and economic relations with the United Stat
Ahead of Pompeo’s statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lixian said his government would adopt “necessary retribution” to deal with “wrong” efforts of other countries’ foreign interference. On Thursday, Hu Xijin, editor of the nationalist state-run newspaper Global Times, said on Twitter that it is not up to the United States to decide whether Hong Kong is autonomous.