The leader of Hong Kong on Wednesday hailed a radical national security law imposed by Beijing as the “most important development” since the city’s return to China.
“National security law legislation is seen as the most important development in central government relations with Hong Kong since the transfer,” CEO Carrie Lam told dignitaries at a memorial ceremony. the 23rd anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule.
“The national security law is a turning point for Hong Kong, moving from chaos to good governance,” she added.
Lam spoke a day after China unveiled the law to the semi-autonomous 7.5 million Hong Kong residents, a landmark decision decried by many western governments as an unprecedented attack on the freedoms and autonomy of the center financial.
It prohibits subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces to undermine national security with sentences of up to life in prison.
The new series of powers radically restructures relations between Beijing and Hong Kong, overturning the legal firewall that existed between the city’s judicial system and the courts controlled by the continent’s parties.
China will have jurisdiction over “serious” cases and its security agencies will also be able to operate publicly in the city for the first time, not bound by local laws in the exercise of their functions.
Twenty-seven countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Japan, have urged Beijing to “reconsider the imposition” of legislation, said in a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council that it “undermines” the liberties of the city.
The United States has threatened further countermeasures.
But Lam – a pro-Beijing candidate – dismissed fears that the law would end Hong Kong’s freedoms.
In her speech on Wednesday, she said the law “will not compromise Hong Kong’s judicial independence and high degree of autonomy, and will not affect the freedoms and rights of the people of Hong Kong.”
She described criticism of the law by foreign governments as “smeared and vicious attacks” and thanked Chinese leaders for maintaining their self-confidence after last year’s huge and often violent pro-democratic protests.