China OKs H.Kong National Security Law 05/28 06:26
China's legislature endorsed a national security law for Hong Kong on
Thursday that has strained relations with the United States and Britain and
prompted new protests in the territory.
BEIJING (AP) -- China's legislature endorsed a national security law for
Hong Kong on Thursday that has strained relations with the United States and
Britain and prompted new protests in the territory.
The National People's Congress approved the bill as it wrapped up an annual
session that was held under intensive anti-coronavirus controls. The vote was
2,878 to 1 with six abstentions, in line with the high-profile but largely
ceremonial body's custom of near-unanimous support for all legal changes
decided by the ruling Communist Party.
The law will alter Hong Kong's mini-constitution, or Basic Law, to require
the territory to enforce measures to be decided by the NPC's standing
committee, a small body controlled by the ruling party that handles most
The law reflects the determination of President Xi Jinping's government to
tighten control over Hong Kong following 11 months of anti-government protests.
Activists in Hong Kong say the law will undermine the "high degree of autonomy"
promised to the former British colony when it was handed back to China in 1997
under a "one country, two systems" framework and might be used to suppress
Premier Li Keqiang, the country's No. 2 leader, defended the law as
consistent with Beijing's promises.
"The decision adopted by the NPC session is designed for steady
implementation of ?one country, two systems' and Hong Kong's long-term
prosperity and stability," Li said at a news conference.
The law and the way it is being enacted prompted U.S. Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo on Wednesday to announce Washington will no longer treat Hong Kong
as autonomous from Beijing. That could hurt the territory's attractiveness as a
Pompeo's notice adds Hong Kong to the Trump administration's conflicts with
China over trade, technology, religious freedom, Chinese handling of the
coronavirus pandemic and the status of Taiwan, the self-ruled island Beijing
claims as its own territory.
Li called for mutual respect and Sino-U.S. cooperation to promote "extensive
common interests" in resolving global problems and promoting trade, science and
"Both countries stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation,"
On Thursday, three pro-democracy lawmakers were ejected from Hong Kong's
legislative chamber during a debate over a bill that would criminalize
insulting or abusing the Chinese national anthem.
Also Thursday, the NPC approved a government budget that will increase
spending to generate jobs in an effort to reverse an economic slump after
Chinese industries were shut down to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Private sector analysts say as much as 30% of the urban workforce, or as
many as 130 million people, lost their jobs at least temporarily during the
shutdown. They say as many as 25 million jobs might be lost for good this year.
The budget calls for giving local governments 2 trillion yuan ($280 billion)
to spend on meeting goals including creating 9 million new jobs. That is in
line with expectations of higher spending but a fraction of the $1
trillion-plus stimulus packages launched or discussed by the United States,
Japan and Europe.
Li, the premier, said Beijing is in a "strong position to introduce new
measures" if necessary but wants to avoid flooding the economy with too much
money. He said 70% of planned spending is aimed at putting wages in workers'
pockets in order to support consumer spending, the biggest driver of the
"We will do our utmost to keep China's economic growth stable," Li said. "At
the same time, we must make sure that all measures taken are well calibrated."
In an anti-virus measure, Li sat on a dais in the Great Hall of the People,
the seat of the legislature in central Beijing, and talked by video link with
reporters at a media center 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) away. The reporters,
wearing masks, sat in widely spaced chairs in an auditorium, watching Li on a
The premier called for international cooperation in fighting the coronavirus
pandemic but didn't answer a question about how an investigation into the
origins of the pandemic demanded by Washington and some other governments
should be conducted.
Beijing has resisted pressure for an inquiry following criticism it
mishandled the early response to the disease that emerged in central China in
December. China has blocked beef imports from four Australian suppliers in
apparent retaliation for Australia's calls for an investigation.