China is set to impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong after last year’s pro-democracy unrest, a Chinese official said on Thursday, drawing a warning from President Donald Trump that Washington would react “very strongly” against the attempt to gain more control over the former British colony.
The U.S. State Department also warned China, saying a high-degree of autonomy and respect for human rights were key to preserving the territory’s special status in U.S. law, which has helped it maintain its position as a world financial centre.
China’s action could spark fresh protests in Hong Kong, which enjoys many freedoms not allowed on the mainland, after often violent demonstrations of 2019 plunged the city into its deepest turmoil since it returned to Beijing’s rule in 1997.
Trump, who has ratcheted up his anti-China rhetoric as he seeks re-election in November, told reporters “nobody knows yet” the details of China’s plan. “If it happens we’ll address that issue very strongly,” he said.
Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the China’s National People’s Congress, said details of the legislation would be given on Friday when the parliament holds its annual session.
Pro-democracy demonstrators have for years opposed the idea of national security laws, arguing they could erode the city’s high degree of autonomy, guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” formula in place for two decades.
A senior Hong Kong government official said details on the move and its implementation remained unclear, but Hong Kong media have reported the legislation would ban secession, foreign interference, terrorism and all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government.