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Chinese lawmakers endorse Hong Kong national security law

China’s ceremonial legislature on Thursday endorsed a national security law for Hong Kong that has strained relations with the United States and Britain.

The National People’s Congress approved the bill as it wrapped up an annual session that was held under intensive anti-coronavirus controls.

The Hong Kong security law will alter the territory’s mini-constitution, or Basic Law, to require its government to enforce measures to be decided later by Chinese leaders.

The measure and the way it is being enacted prompted Washington to announce it no longer will treat Hong Kong as being autonomous from Beijing.

Activists in Hong Kong have complained the law will undermine civil liberties and might be used to suppress political activity.

The legislature also approved a government budget that will increase spending to generate jobs in an effort to reverse an economic slump after Chinese industries were shut down to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

Pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui, centre, struggles with security personnel at the main chamber of the Legislative Council during the second day of debate on a bill that would criminalize insulting or abusing the Chinese anthem in Hong Kong. (The Associated Press)

Earlier Thursday, three pro-democracy lawmakers were ejected from Hong Kong’s legislative chamber, disrupting the second day of debate on a contentious bill that would criminalize insulting or abusing the Chinese national anthem.

The legislature’s president, Andrew Leung, suspended the meeting minutes after it began and ejected Eddie Chu for holding up a sarcastic sign about a pro-Beijing lawmaker that read “Best Chairperson, Starry Lee.”

A second pro-democracy lawmaker was ejected for yelling after the meeting resumed, and then a third after rushing forward with a large plastic bottle in a cloth bag that spilled its brownish contents on the floor in front of the president’s raised dais.

The third lawmaker, Ted Hui, later described the contents as a rotten plant, and said he wanted Leung to feel and smell the rotting of Hong Kong’s civilization and rule of law, and of the “one country, two systems” framework that democracy activists feel is under attack by China’s ruling Communist Party. 

Firefighters wearing gas masks check the main chamber of the Legislative Council Thursday after a pro-democracy lawmaker hurled an object during the second day of debate on a bill that would criminalize insulting or abusing the Chinese anthem in Hong Kong. (Vincent Yu/The Associated Press)

The city’s pro-democracy opposition sees both the security legislation and the anthem law as assaults on that autonomy, and the U.S. has called on China to back off on the security law.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo notified Congress on Wednesday that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China, setting the stage for the possible withdrawal of the preferential trade and financial status the U.S. accords the former British colony.

China blocked a U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the legislation Wednesday, with China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun tweeting that Hong Kong is “purely China’s internal affairs.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said ahead of Pompeo’s announcement that China would take necessary steps to fight back against any “erroneous foreign interference in Hong Kong’s affairs.”

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