China passes controversial Hong Kong security law

Pro-Beijing demonstrators celebrate passage of Hong Kong security law
(Image credit: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

China's National People's Congress Standing Committee unanimously approved a security bill Tuesday that will give Beijing authority to crack down on political dissent in Hong Kong, which has enjoyed significant legal and civil autonomy since being handed over by Britain in 1997, The New York Times and Chinese media in Hong Kong report. The U.S., Britain, and European Union have criticized the law and the U.S. placed limits on exports of U.S. defense equipment and some technology, stripping some of Hong Kong's special trade status.

The approval process in the elite arm of China's party-run legislature "drew criticism for its unusual secrecy," the Times reports. "Breaking from normal procedure, the committee did not release a draft of the law for public comment. Hong Kong's activists, legal scholars, and officials were left to debate or defend the bill based on details released by China's state news media earlier this month."

Beijing says the new law, which will allow the Communist Party central government to set up a security apparatus in Hong Kong to collect intelligence and investigate special cases, will make Hong Kong safer. But it is not popular in Hong Kong, and critics warn it will be used to quash protests, Hong Kong's limited democracy, and dissent among pro-democracy advocates directly and through intimidation.

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Chinese President "Xi Jinping is looking at more comprehensive control over Hong Kong, and the national security law will go a long way to achieving that control," Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a longtime commentator on Chinese politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Times. "It will be a new ballgame, affecting schools, affecting the media, and many other arenas of Hong Kong life." Beijing passed the law one day before the anniversary of Britain's handover, and for the first time in decades, Hong Kong has banned the usual July 1 protest march.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.