China’s parliament approved a measure that would impose a controversial national security law in Hong Kong, CNN reports.
Critics say the move threatens to undermine Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous state and crack down on political freedoms and civil liberties.
The legislature voted nearly unanimously to approve the bill on Thursday. The bill bars “secession, subversion of state power, terrorism, [and] foreign intervention,” CNN reported.
The bill also allows Chinese security agencies to police Hong Kong.
Only one delegate voted against the proposal while six abstained.
Bill triggered protests:
The bill, which came in response to the protests in Hong Kong, triggered a new round of protests in the city. The bill’s approval is expected to draw even bigger crowds.
"They've practically taken away our soul. Our soul we've been treasuring all these years, the rule of law, human rights, they're taking away all the core values we've come to know," Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Claudio Mo said. "From now on, Hong Kong is nothing but just another mainland Chinese city."
US vows crackdown:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Wednesday that the US would no longer consider Hong Kong autonomous from China.
"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," he said in a statement.
As a result, Hong Kong could be slapped with tariffs targeted at China.
Several senators are also trying to pass a bill going even further, requiring the State Department to list entities in China “responsible for inflicting this crackdown on Hong Kong.”
“They will be subject to sanctions themselves, financial sanctions including things like freezing their assets but also secondary sanctions, which is to say restricting the activities of banks that finance those individuals and those entities,” said Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey. “I think that’s a pretty big hammer to be wielding.”