The Chinese capital, Beijing, allegedly passed a national security law for the autonomous city of Hong Kong that critics fear will undermine political freedoms and may cement China's control over the city.
According to The Guardian, less than 40 days after Chinese lawmakers initially proposed passing an anti-sedition law on Hong Kong, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) approved the measure on Tuesday.
The legislation would criminalize secession, subversion, terrorism, and conspiring with foreign forces. Multiple media organizations within Hong Kong reported, citing unnamed sources, that the law was unanimously passed by the committee.
The internationally condemned law is a devastating move against Hong Kong's autonomy as written under the framework "one country two systems" which was structured when the former British colony handed over the city to the control of China in 1997.
During the decades that passed since the free press of Hong Kong including independent courts and legislature along with its history of protests and marches made the city an attraction for civil liberties that mainland China does not allow amid President Xi Jinping's iron fist against civil society.
Last year, however, protests against another bill which the citizens of Hong Kong considered an assault from mainland China on their city that turned into a broader democracy movement, has thrown the differences between the two territories into sharp relief.
Officials have emphasized that the law is meant to deter such protests which have created increasing tensions and created new diplomatic tensions to Beijing, adding to its currently hostile international environment.
On Monday, the United States government announced it would halt its export of sensitive military equipment to Hong Kong amid the country's efforts to reverse the special trade status of the city as being separate from mainland China.
A bill that was unanimously passed by the US would also sanction Chinese officials and financial institutions who are found to be undermining Hong Kong's autonomy.
At a weekly press conference, Chief Executive Carrie Lam refused to answer questions from reporters regarding the passing of the new law. Lam noted that any response she would say would be inappropriate.
The official also said that over the past two days, several rumors and speculations have arisen regarding the details of the new law and added it would be unwise for her to answer any questions or give relevant explanations, as reported by Hong Kong FP.
Lam also added that when the NPCSC would allow the passing of the law, that she, along with her principal officials, would openly explain and discuss any questions regarding the legislation.
Xinhua News Agency, the state-run media, reported initial details of the law's draft on Saturday, which consists of Beijing's plans to construct a national security bureau in Hong Kong's territory.
The move would authorize the chief executive the power to choose judges who handle national security crimes and also allow Chinese authorities to have jurisdiction in the same cases.
However, the entirety of the details of the law has yet to be disclosed, causing some local officials to be uninformed.