China's plan to impose a national security law on Hong Kong to prevent and punish acts of "secession, subversion or terrorism activities" that threaten national security has drawn fire from critics and ordinary Hong Kongers alike, with many lamenting this is the end of the free and open city that the world has known.
The draft bill on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) to safeguard national security was submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC) which began its week-long session here.
The new law would enforce punishment for "subversion" and other perceived offenses in the city, which was swept by months of massive and occasionally violent pro-democracy protests a year ago.
Prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong said China's message to protesters seeking to maintain their freedoms was clear.
Jimmy Sham, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front - which organized some of the biggest marches during a historic summer of pro-democracy protests previous year - told reporters he hoped for a large turnout when his group called its next demonstration. "It was never clear what exactly the allegations and the evidence are, and the term national security is so vague that it could cover nearly anything", Professor Johannes Chan, a legal scholar at the University of Hong Kong, says.
"The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its worldwide obligations, and respect Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law", Pompeo said in a statement.
However, a huge pro-democracy movement has built in the face of fears China has been steadily eroding those freedoms. "Beijing is afraid that the Hong Kong legislature may be controlled by democrats after elections in September, so they want to set a risky precedent of allowing Beijing to legislate for Hong Kong", he said at a Heritage Foundation webinar.
"Many Hong Kongers must be as angry as us now, but we must remember not to give up", she added.
"A broad-brush interpretation of this law would signal the end of Hong Kong as we know it", Patterson said.
Martin Lee, considered the grandfather of Hong Kong's democracy movement, made a similar point to the Heritage Foundation, warning that Beijing could renege on Trump's cherished trade agreement. It tried to do this subtly at first, pushing Hong Kong's pro-Beijing leader, Carrie Lam, to endorse measures that would extend Chinese control over the rambunctious city.
Hong Kong was required to introduce security legislation after the handover from British control to China in 1997.
He said relevant national security laws will be implemented through Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law's Annex III, which allows national laws to be applied to the city.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump warned that the USA would respond to the planned move in Beijing, amid escalating tensions between the two powers. "I don't know what it is because nobody knows yet", he told reporters at the White House about the possible Chinese actions. "If it happens, we'll address that issue very strongly", Trump said.
The "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act" approved by US President Donald Trump previous year requires the State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favourable US trading terms that have helped it maintain its position as a world financial centre.
Pompeo said that Beijing's latest moves would "inevitably" influence the State Department's decision.
He tweeted the claim alongside footage of the BBC World Service turning black as soon as anchor Lewis Jones speaks about Hong Kong.
Pro-democracy lawmakers marched in small groups to the Chinese government's Liaison Office in Hong Kong to express opposition to the measure, hours after its details were officially announced.
Senator Pat Toomey, who spearheaded the legislation, described Hong Kong as "the canary in the coal mine for Asia".
"Beijing's growing interference could have a chilling effect on other nations struggling for freedom in China's shadow", he said.