Hong Kong legislature passes strict national security bill

Hong Kong's Legislative Council has unanimously passed a national security bill. It expands on the Hong Kong National Security Law that was pushed by Beijing and took effect in 2020.

The bill cleared the legislature at a plenary meeting on Tuesday with all members attending.

The new legislation will prohibit acts that endanger national security, including theft of state secrets, espionage and external interference. Violations could bring sentences of up to life imprisonment.

After the approval, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee spoke to the Council members. He called it "a historic moment." He also said national security is protected, and that the legislation will come into effect on Saturday.

Almost all members of the Council are pro-Beijing. They fully backed a rapid enactment of the bill, even working through the weekend toward that goal. The approval came just 11 days after the Hong Kong government submitted the bill on March 8.

Some people have expressed concern, saying the bill's definition of "state secrets" is vague, as well as citing a potential chilling impact on business, media and other areas.

Observers say the new legislation will allow the government to exercise tighter control over people in Hong Kong.