The city’s leader Carrie Lam said Saturday the government agreed with the proposal to establish “specialized departments in the police force and the department of justice” to safeguard national security.
In a written statement she said the territory’s government “expressed gratitude” over Beijing’s handling of the situation.
But Alvin Yeung, a Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker, said the details on what will constitute a crime are “highly vague, which is of course, extremely worrying.”
“More importantly, it is almost like Beijing’s hand is getting right in the center of the administrative and judicial reins of Hong Kong.”
Leung also expressed alarm at Xinhua’s mention of a separate security “council” to be headed by the territory’s chief executive whose duties would include choosing judges to handle security cases.
“What worries me more is if any judges, in the future, when they try the cases and in (rule) favor of the defendant, would those judges be removed? That could be possible,” he said.
China’s parliament endorsed the planned legislation last month, sending the draft to the Standing Committee.
The Group of Seven foreign ministers on Wednesday urged China to reconsider the proposed law, saying they had “grave concerns” it threatens Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms.
In response, senior Chinese foreign policy official Yang Jiechi said at a high-level meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Hawaii that Beijing’s “determination” to introduce the law was “unwavering”.
Under a “One Country, Two Systems” agreement before Britain handed the territory back to China, Beijing agreed to let Hong Kong maintain certain liberties and autonomy until 2047 — including legislative and judicial independence and freedom of speech.
Hong Kong has been convulsed by a year of huge and often violent rallies that began with an eventually aborted criminal extradition bill but morphed into a popular call for democracy and police accountability.
Beijing says the national security law is needed to end the political unrest and restore stability.
Xinhua said the Standing Committee would “soon finalize” the legislation.