China will punish anyone found guilty of secession, subversion and terrorism in Hong Kong to life in prison under the territory’s new national security law.
Details of the controversial new law released today reveal those found guilty of “colluding with foreign forces” will also face the harshest possible sentences.
It can also be used against people who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong, they added, and will ban anyone found guilty of the four crimes from standing in local elections.
Critics have repeatedly expressed fears that the law will be used by China to target protesters and opposition politicians seen as disloyal to Beijing.
It sets the stage for the most radical change to life on the island territory since Britain handed it back to China in 1997.
World leaders have warned it will see the beginning a new authoritarian era for Hong Kong and will crush the freedoms of the global financial hub.
It is likely to strain relations with the UK, which urged China not to adopt the law and promised to make it easier for the millions of people in Hong Kong who hold or are eligible for a British National Overseas Passport to become UK citizens.
In the US, the Senate passed a bill that sanctions Chinese officials who undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo imposed visa restrictions on unnamed current and former party officials.
Yesterday the US began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under US law, halting defence exports and restricting the territory’s access to high technology products.