China’s top legislative body will vote on Hong Kong’s security legislation on Tuesday morning, the day before the city’s handover anniversary, Now TV News reported, signalling Beijing may soon hand down a measure that pro-democracy activists and business groups say could erode the city’s unique freedoms.
At a three-day meeting that started on Sunday, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee discussed the legislation to punish acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, Radio Television Hong Kong
reported earlier, citing Ip Kwok-him, one of the city’s non-voting delegates.
The proposed law includes a life sentence for acts of secession and subversion, according to the Now TV report, which cited unidentified people. The penalty would be far more severe than what the city’s sole representative to the Chinese legislative body has suggested.
Prison sentences for the four types of crimes would range between three and 10 years and would be largely in line with Hong Kong’s criminal laws, RTHK said last week, citing Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s only voting delegate in the committee.
Albert Ho Chun-yan, former chairman of the city’s Democratic Party, said the proposed sentence didn’t surprise him. Some people thought “it could have been the death penalty,” he said.
“It is a shame that the so-called Hong Kong delegates just let the legislation go through like this,” Ho said. “It is also a shame for China — how can it face the world?”
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government announced plans in late May to impose the legislation on the former British colony following an unprecedented wave of protests last year. If the proposed law passes during this NPC session, it could come into effect in time for the symbolic July 1 anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing sees the faster passing of the bill benefiting Hong Kong, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.