China will propose a national security law for Hong Kong in response to last year's often violent pro-democracy protests that plunged the city into its deepest turmoil since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The Chinese parliament will discuss the controversial new law at its annual session, state news agency Xinhua said, in a move likely to stoke unrest in the semi-autonomous region. The legislation will be introduced at the meeting of the National People's Congress that opens on Friday.
Xinhua said a preparatory meeting for a Chinese parliament session adopted an agenda that included an item to review a bill "on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to safeguard national security".
The South China Morning Post newspaper, citing unnamed sources, said the laws would ban secession, foreign interference, "terrorism" and all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government and any external interference in the former British colony.
Reporting form Beijing, Al Jazeera's Katrina Yu said the legislation signifies Beijing taking "into their own hands" the political unrest in Hong Kong that sparked nearly a year of intermittent protests beginning in June of 2019.
Those protests were initially in response to an extradition bill introduced in Hong Kong's legislature that would allow Beijing to extradite accused individuals to the mainland to face trial. The bill was stalled and later withdrawn.
"What will happen, as we understand it, [China's parliament] will make an amendment to the basic law, which is Hong Kong's mini-constitution, using a legal backdoor which essentially allows it to bypass the usual legislative processes in Hong Kong," Yu said.
"This is because, as Beijing sees, there's simply too much opposition from pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong, so they're going to have to put this in themselves and make this very strong imposition of their power," she added.
Hong Kong was returned to China from British rule in 1997 under the so-called "one country two systems" arrangement, in which the region maintained some autonomy, including a separate judiciary and more civil liberties for its citizens. The arrangement is set to end in 2047.