The UK is “deeply concerned” by China’s “grave step” in approving a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity, the foreign secretary has said.
The South China Morning Post newspaper and public broadcaster RTHK, both citing unnamed sources, said that the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress voted unanimously to approve a national security law for Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The legislation is aimed at curbing subversive, secessionist and terrorist activities, as well as foreign intervention in the city’s affairs.
It follows months of anti-government protests that at times descended into violence in Hong Kong last year.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Dominic Raab said: “We are deeply concerned by unconfirmed reports that Beijing has passed the national security law.
“This would be a grave step.
“Once we have seen the full legislation, we will make a further statement.”
Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, confirmed in an interview with reporters Tuesday that the law had been passed.
He said punishments would not include the death penalty, but did not elaborate on further details such as whether the law could be applied retroactively.
“We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from stirring up trouble,” Tam said in the interview.
“Don’t let Hong Kong be used as a tool to split the country.”
Mr Raab said: “We are deeply concerned by unconfirmed reports that Beijing has passed the national security law.
“This would be a grave step. Once we have seen the full legislation, we will make a further statement.”
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam earlier declined to comment on the law at a weekly meeting with reporters, saying it was inappropriate for her to do so while the Standing Committee was still meeting.