China has proposed new legislation to impose a national security law on Hong Kong as part of measures aimed at restoring calm to the semi-autonomous city after seven months of fierce anti-government protests last year.
The draft proposal, which was presented to Chinaís parliament at the opening of its annual session on Friday morning, said the security law would "guard against, stop and punish any separatism, subversion of the national regime, terrorist group activities and such behaviors that seriously harm national security."
The proposal will be debated by Chinaís top leaders, although in practice proposals at the Chinese parliament - National Peopleís Congress - are usually agreed in advance.
The semi-autonomous Chinese territory was rocked by turbulent protests starting in June last year, when some citizens across the city began protesting against a proposed extradition bill. The proposal has since been withdrawn.
The protesters often heavily vandalized shops and public property and attacked citizens believed to be pro-government. However, since the government imposed a ban on public meetings at the end of March to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong has been relatively calm.
There was only one instance of unrest when Hong Kong riot police dispersed a crowd of 300 protesters late last month.
More than 7,000 people have been taken into custody for their involvement in the protests since June last year, with many having been charged with rioting, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The Chinese government says the United States and Britain have been fanning the flames of unrest in Hong Kong by supporting the protesters.
Hong Kong has been governed under the "one-country, two-system" model since the city - a former British colony - was returned to China in 1997.
Hong Kong to ‘fully cooperateí with Beijing
Hong Kongís leader said in a statement on Friday that the local government would "fully cooperate" with Beijing over the national security, and "complete the legislation as soon as possible to discharge its responsibility."
Carrie Lam said she "firmly" believed the law was aimed at "effectively preventing and curbing actions that seriously endanger national security."
Hong Kongís leader added in her statement that the legislation would "punish íHong Kong independenceí and violent political elements."
Lam said the mass protests that rocked the Asian financial hub had "seriously undermined relations between the Chinese central government and the Hong Kong government, harmed national security and sovereignty, and challenged central authorities."
The opponents of the proposal said the new national security law would erode freedoms in the semi-autonomous city.
During a daily briefing in Beijing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian defended the proposed legislation and expressed opposition to any kind of foreign interference in Chinaís domestic affairs.
"Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China. The issue of implementing Hong Kongís national security law is purely Chinaís domestic affair. No foreign country has the right to interfere," Zhao said.
The Chinese government is firmly committed to protecting its sovereignty, security and national interests, and is firmly committed to implementing the one country, two systems form of rule. China staunchly opposes any foreign forces interfering in Hong Kongís affairs," he added.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed Chinaís handling of the city and its months-long anti-government protests, on Wednesday, claiming that the treatment of what he called activists in Hong Kong complicated the assessment of whether the territory remained autonomous.
China again pushes for Taiwan íreunificationí
Moreover, the United States has for long courted Taiwan in an attempt to counter China, which has pursued Taipeiís reunification ever since the island broke away from the mainland during a civil war in 1949.
China claims full sovereignty over the island and almost all world countries recognize that sovereignty. The US, which has no formal diplomatic relations with Taipei by law, has extensive military ties with the island, selling it advanced military hardware.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the start of the annual meeting of Chinaís parliament that his country would "resolutely oppose and deter any separatist activities seeking Taiwan independence."
Li stressed that Beijing would improve policies and measures to encourage exchanges and cooperation across the Taiwan Strait, and protect the well-being of Taiwanís people.
"We will encourage them to join us in opposing Taiwan independence and promoting Chinaís reunification," Li said. "With these efforts, we can surely create a beautiful future for the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation."
Relations between Beijing and Taipei have been particularly strained since President Tsai Ing-wen came to power on the island in 2016. She has strong anti-China inclinations and rejects Chinese sovereignty.
China military budget growth slows
Meanwhile, the Chinese government announced on Friday that it will increase its military budget by a slower 6.6 percent in 2020.
During the opening session of its annual National Peopleís Congress, the government said the budget would be set at $178 billion for the year - the second highest in the world after the US.
The Chinese budget for military spending continues a downward trend and is lower than last yearís increase of 7.5 percent.
SOURCE: PRESS TV