This week Beijing finally unveiled its new national security laws for Hong Kong, a raft of regulation that will target crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
The law's been widely condemned as an unwarranted and heavy-handed response to on-going protests in the former British colony.
Beijing had kept the details shrouded in secrecy, giving Hong Kong’s residents a slim window of opportunity to read and comprehend the new laws before they came into force at 11pm on Tuesday.
The timing was not without significance , coming just an hour before the 23rd anniversary of Britain's handing back of Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997.
Democracy activists across Hong Kong announced their departure from Twitter and other social media sites, and the leading pro-democracy group Demosisto announced it was dis-banding.
The legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the United States, Britain and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the city was granted at its July 1, 1997, handover.
Details of the new law include :
- Crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces are punishable by a minimum sentence of three years, with the maximum being life
- Inciting hatred of China's central government and Hong Kong's regional government are now offences
- Damaging public transport facilities can be considered terrorism
- Those found guilty of any breach of the new laws will not be allowed to stand for public office
- Beijing will establish a new security office in Hong Kong, with its own law enforcement officers
- Hong Kong's chief executive can appoint judges in national security cases
- Decisions of the national security commission are final and cannot be legally challenged
- China will conduct prosecutions in cases which are considered "very serious", and some trials will be heard behind closed doors.
- The law can also be broken from abroad by non-residents, under Article 38
The UK and dozens of other Western countries are urging China to reconsider the law, saying Beijing must preserve the right to assembly and free press.
The US described the new law as a violation of Beijing’s international commitments.
Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters expressed the New Zealand Government’s "deep disappointment" at the introduction of the new law.
“New Zealand has consistently emphasised its serious concern about the imposition of this legislation on Hong Kong without inclusive consultation or the proper involvement of all of Hong Kong’s institutions,” said Mr Peters.
“We share the international community’s stake in preserving the high degree of autonomy and freedom available to Hong Kong and its people under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework." he said.
“It is this autonomy and freedom, together with open governance, judicial independence, and consensus on the rule of law that have been fundamental to Hong Kong’s growth as a global financial and economic hub since 1997.
“This is a critical moment for fundamental human rights and freedoms protected in Hong Kong for generations. New Zealand will be studying the legislation carefully, and closely monitoring its implementation and impact on the people of Hong Kong, with whom we share close links,” said Mr Peters.
- Asia Media Centre