China lawmakers to discuss Hong Kong security legislation this week

In a photo from May 24, 2020, riot police gather on a road as protesters take part in a pro-democracy rally against a proposed new security law in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - The top decision-making body of China's legislature has decided to start deliberations on Thursday (June 18) on controversial national security legislation to be imposed on Hong Kong - in a last-minute change to its public agenda.

"The draft law has specific regulations on four types of criminal actions and respective criminal responsibilities on treason, secession, terrorism and subversion by foreign forces," official Xinhua News Agency said on Thursday.

The report didn't say when the National People's Congress Standing Committee was expected to vote on the draft.

China's government decided last month to impose new national security laws on Hong Kong aimed at punishing treason, secession, terrorism and subversion by foreign forces, which would be included in an annex to the city's mini constitution, the Basic Law.

Critics say the new laws would restrict freedoms in the financial hub and have raised questions about its future autonomy from Beijing. The move has rekindled street protests and sparked condemnation abroad, with the US deciding to begin the process of stripping some of Hong Kong's privileged trade status.

The Chinese government and its appointed leaders in Hong Kong have been seeking to reassure local residents, foreign officials and overseas investors about the looming legislation.

Mr Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said on Monday that the laws would not be retroactive, potentially limiting the scope of the legislation.

Mr Deng also added that new agencies will be set up as part of the enforcement mechanisms, with China "reserving the right to have jurisdiction over cases that seriously endanger national security under very rare circumstances."

The reference could raise the spectre of extradition - an issue that sparked last year's protests - or trials by Communist Party-chosen judges.

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