BEIJING — China is pushing for new national security laws that would give the Communist Party more authority in Hong Kong, a move announced on Thursday that could reignite fear and anger over the erosion of freedoms that distinguish the city from the rest of the country.
Such rules would allow Beijing to take aim at the large, often violent antigovernment protests that roiled Hong Kong for much of last year — unrest that has posed a direct challenge to the party and its top leader, Xi Jinping. The legislative push in Beijing marks the most aggressive step by the party to exert its influence over the former British colony since it was reclaimed by China in 1997.
Any legislation put forth in China could allow Hong Kong officials to crack down on dissent under the guise of protecting national security. Similar legislation proposed by the Hong Kong government in 2003 would have empowered the authorities to close seditious newspapers and conduct searches without warrants. That proposal was abandoned after it triggered large protests.
This time, a broad outline for the new rules would likely be approved by China’s rubber stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, which holds its annual session starting Friday. The process would effectively circumvent the Hong Kong government, undercutting the relative autonomy granted to the territory under a political formula known as “one country, two systems.”
Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the National People’s Congress, said at a news briefing on Thursday that delegates would review a plan to set up a legal framework and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in Hong Kong.
Keith Bradsher reported from Beijing and Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong.