Beijing, Jul 8 (efe-epa).- The Chinese government inaugurated the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong on Wednesday, eight days after a contentious security law took effect.
Red carpet, ropes and curtains were seen as guests posed for photographs under the new signage and passersby tried to take photos through huge blue barriers while police stood guard in the area.
The office “oversees, guides, coordinates with and supports” the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in safeguarding national security, while providing opinions and making proposals on “major strategies and important policies” on this subject, state news agency Xinhua reported.
Xinhua detailed that “the office also collects and analyzes intelligence and information about national security and handles cases on offenses endangering national security.”
The creation of the office comes under the new Hong Kong security law, drafted by Beijing with the utmost secrecy and which entered into force on June 30.
The new law establishes penalties of up to life in prison for cases of secession, subversion against state power (a charge usually used against dissidents and critics of the communist regime), terrorist activities and collusion with foreign forces to put national security at risk.
Under the provisions of the legislation, the Hong Kong Police were granted this week powers to guarantee compliance with the new law, which has been opposed by lawyers, activists, journalists and a large segment of the population in Hong Kong who fear it may curtail the freedoms enjoyed by the semi-autonomous city, which was a British colony until 1997.
The law entered into force after more than a year of pro-democracy protests marked by violent incidents between the police and some radical protesters, and which have had an effect on the local economy.
The 1984 Sino-British Declaration, which articulated the United Kingdom ending administration of Hong Kong and handing over control back to China in 1997, established the maintenance for at least 50 years of a series of freedoms unimaginable in mainland China.
However, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokespersons have reiterated that the commitments contained in that document were fulfilled at the time. EFE-EPA