China’s rubber-stamp parliament endorsed plans Thursday to impose a national security law on Hong Kong that critics say will destroy the city’s autonomy.
Over 2,800 members of the National People’s Congress (NPC) voted overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal to draft the law, which would punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and acts that endanger national security.
The announcement of the result was met with sustained and loud applause by delegates.
Only one person opposed the proposal, while six abstained.
The law would be directly imposed by mainland authorities, effectively bypassing Hong Kong’s government.
According to a draft of the proposal released last week, the law would allow mainland security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong.
The NPC Standing Committee — which is likely to meet next in June — will now be tasked with formulating the legislation, which Beijing has said must be done “at an early date”.
The plans have prompted condemnation from foreign governments, investors and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, who say China is eradicating the freedoms it promised the city under its 1997 handover agreement with Britain.
The United States Wednesday revoked its special status for Hong Kong, alleging the city was no longer autonomous from Beijing, paving the way for future sanctions and the removal of trading privileges in the financial hub.
China has made Hong Kong’s national security law a top priority in this year’s annual parliamentary sessions after huge protests rocked the financial hub for seven months last year.
Last week’s announcement that China would impose the new security law triggered further protests in Hong Kong, although a huge police presence prevented massive gatherings.