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Politics

China presses ahead with Hong Kong security bill over global outcry

Beijing undeterred by G-7 statement and Washington's Uighur sanctions

A protester waves a flag at a Hong Kong mall on June 12. There is concern that the proposed national security law will be used to crack down on pro-democracy protests in the city.   © Reuters

HONG KONG/BEIJING -- China's top legislature began deliberating Thursday a controversial national security law for Hong Kong that has drawn the "grave concern" of the Group of Seven nations.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, the core organ of the Chinese parliament, will discuss the bill over a three-day session through Saturday. The draft proposed to criminalize acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency.

Draft legislation usually goes through two or three rounds of deliberations by the NPC Standing Committee. The Hong Kong national security law could take effect as soon as early July, before Hong Kong's legislative elections in September, Hong Kong media report.

In a statement Wednesday, G-7 foreign ministers expressed "grave concern" over the move to impose a national security law on Hong Kong and said they "strongly urge the Government of China to reconsider this decision."

U.S. President Donald Trump signed Wednesday legislation for sanctions on Chinese officials involved in violating the human rights of the Uighur ethnic minority in Xinjiang. There had been concern in Washington that a lack of action on the Uighurs and the Hong Kong national security law could embolden China's authoritarian tendencies.

The U.S. likely hoped to pressure China against moving forward with the Hong Kong law through the G-7 statement and the Uighur human rights law. But Beijing was undeterred.

"Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs that allow no interference by any foreign government, organization or individual," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told reporters Thursday.

The ministry also said in a statement that the U.S.'s Uighur human rights act "grossly interferes in China's internal affairs."

China is steadily paving the way to put the Hong Kong security law into effect as quickly as possible. Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, said Monday that the central government would have jurisdiction over serious national security cases that arise in Hong Kong. The comment can be taken as a sign that the mainland would start directly enforcing the law in the city.

Those arrested for violating the Hong Kong national security law could be extradited to and tried on the mainland if the central government believes it necessary, Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong's delegate to the NPC, also said Wednesday.

With China showing no signs of backing down, the G-7 has few options left for further action. The group's statement was spearheaded by Japan, with cooperation from Europe. But unlike the U.S., they hesitate to take tougher steps, such as sanctions.

Rifts within the bloc are only growing. The U.S. had planned to host an in-person summit of G-7 leaders in June. But the gathering was delayed to September, partly because German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined the invitation. The bloc might not even be able to hold a teleconference this month, either.

Additional reporting by Tsuyoshi Nagasawa in Washington.

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