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China will punish anyone found guilty of secession, subversion and terrorism in Hong Kong to life in prison under the territory’s new national security law.
Details of the controversial new law released today reveal those found guilty of “colluding with foreign forces” will also face the harshest possible sentences.
The legislation came into effect at 3pm GMT on Tuesday and will be presided over by mainland China and not Hong Kong, Chinese state media said.
It can also be used against people who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong and will ban anyone found guilty of the four crimes from standing in local elections, they added.
Critics have repeatedly expressed fears that the law will be used to target protesters and opposition politicians seen as disloyal to Beijing.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said China has “chosen to break their promises to the people of Hong Kong” and “go against their obligations to the international community” by pushing ahead with the legislation.
He previously urged China not to adopt the law and vowed to make it easier for the millions of people in Hong Kong who hold or are eligible for a British National Overseas Passport to become UK citizens.
Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong’s group Demosisto, and others who led protests that overran the territory last year, have said they will dissolve as a result.
Mr Wong wrote on Twitter: “It marks the end of Hong Kong that the world knew before.”
It sets the stage for the most radical change to life on the island territory since Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
World leaders have warned it will see the beginning of a new authoritarian era and will crush the freedoms of the global financial hub.
US Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called on President Donald Trump to take action against China under Hong Kong’s Human Rights and Democracy Act.
The US Senate passed a bill that sanctions Chinese officials who undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed visa restrictions on unnamed current and former party officials.
Yesterday they also began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under US law, halting defence exports and restricting the territory’s access to high technology products.
Details of new security law worse than the most pessimistic feared
Analysis by Tom Cheshire, Asia correspondent
Beijing kept the details of its national security legislation for Hong Kong secret. Now they are published – only at the moment the law takes effect – it is easy to understand why.
The legislation is perhaps more far reaching than the most pessimistic feared. Secession, subversion, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces now all carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
But they are drawn incredibly widely. Terrorism includes disrupting public transport. Subversion includes disrupting and preventing central Chinese government agencies or Hong Kong government agencies from performing their duties.
And a national security committee will be established under the control of Beijing. Its operations will not be made public and its decisions cannot be challenged by Hong Kong courts.
Many of last year’s protests in Hong Kong easily meet the definitions of the new national security law.
That is of course the point, to significantly raise the cost of further protests. We will see how the people of Hong Kong respond.