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HONG KONG (AP) — China on Tuesday approved a contentious national security law for Hong Kong that takes direct aim at some of the actions of anti-government protesters last year, in a move many see as Beijing’s boldest yet to erase the legal firewall between the semi-autonomous territory and the mainland’s authoritarian Communist Party system.

Details of the law remained under wraps until 11 p.m. (1500 GMT, 11:00 a.m. EDT), when it was published and took effect immediately.

Protesters gather at a shopping mall in Central during a pro-democracy protest against Beijing’s national security law in Hong Kong, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Hong Kong media are reporting that China has approved a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, sparking fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory. The placard, second from left, reads: “Oppose Beijing’s national security law, go to streets on July 1.” (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

The text specifies that those who destroy government facilities and utilities would be considered subversive. Damaging public transportation facilities and arson would constitute acts of terrorism. Any person taking part in secessionist activities, whether organizing or participating, will violate the law regardless of whether violence is used.

“We hope the law will serve as a deterrent to prevent people from stirring up trouble,” said Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the Standing Committee “Don’t let Hong Kong be used as a tool to split the country.”

The law took effect ahead an hour before July 1, the 23rd anniversary of the territory’s passing from Britain to China. Amid protests in Hong Kong last year, demonstrators broke into the legislative building on the anniversary, spray painted slogans on the walls and heavily damaged the electronic voting system.

During months of protests, they frequently smashed subway ticket machines and electronic sensors at entry gates, and disrupted service by holding doors open so trains couldn’t leave the stations.

President Xi Jinping signed a presidential order promulgating the law after its approval by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It was to be added to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution.

Under the law, those found guilty of inciting secessionist, subversive, terrorist activities and colluding with foreign forces could face life imprisonment if they are deemed masterminds of such activities.

The legislation also states that Hong Kong’s government “shall take necessary measures to strengthen publicity, guidance, supervision and management” for schools, social groups, media, internet and other matters related to national security.

Protesters gather at a shopping mall in Central during a pro-democracy protest against Beijing’s national security law in Hong Kong, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Hong Kong media are reporting that China has approved a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, sparking fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Hong Kong will establish a committee responsible for maintaining national security in the city. It will be chaired by chief executive Carrie Lam and will be accountable to and supervised by the Chinese government.

Passage of the law came amid fears in Hong Kong and abroad that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the financial hub. The U.S. has already begun moves to end special trade terms given to Hong Kong after the former British colony was returned to China in 1997.

Speaking in a video message to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, Lam said the law would “only target an extremely small minority” of lawbreakers, would not be retroactive, and that mainland legal bodies would only have jurisdiction in “rare, specified situations.”

Critics say it is the most significant erosion to date of Hong Kong’s British-style rule of law and the high degree of autonomy that Beijing promised Hong Kong would enjoy at least through 2047 under a “one country, two systems” framework.

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow and Nathan Law issued statements on Facebook saying they would withdraw from their organization Demosisto, which then announced that it would disband with the loss of its top members.

Wong said “worrying about life and safety” has become a real issue and nobody will be able to predict the repercussions of the law, whether it is being extradited to China or facing long jail terms.

A group of about 30 pro-China supporters gathered at Hong Kong’s Tamar Park on Tuesday, waving Chinese flags. Organizers said that the rally was to show support of the national security law, and to celebrate Hong Kong’s return to China.

Meanwhile, more than 100 protesters gathered at a luxury mall in Hong Kong’s Central business district, chanting slogans including “Free Hong Kong, Revolution Now,” with several holding a flag representing an independent Hong Kong as well as posters condemning the law.

The law’s passage “represents the greatest threat to human rights in the city’s recent history,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, head of Amnesty International’s China Team.

“The speed and secrecy with which China has pushed through this legislation intensifies the fear that Beijing has calculatingly created a weapon of repression to be used against government critics, including people who are merely expressing their views or protesting peacefully,” Rosenzweig said in a statement.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to reporter’s question during a press conference in Hong Kong, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Hong Kong media are reporting that China has approved a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, sparking fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory.(AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Concerns also were expressed in Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary.

“Democracy and freedom are shared universal values of Hong Kong and Taiwan,” the island’s Mainland Affairs Council said, adding that China had betrayed its promises to Hong Kong,

The self-governing island recently said it would consider providing asylum for Hong Kong opposition figures who fear arrest.

Ahead of the law’s passage, the Trump administration said it will bar defense exports to Hong Kong and will soon require licenses for the sale of items that have both civilian and military uses.

“We cannot risk these items falling into the hands of the People’s Liberation Army, whose primary purpose is to uphold the dictatorship of the (ruling Communist Party) by any means necessary,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his government was “deeply concerned” by reports of the law’s passage, saying that would be a “grave step.” Britain has said it could offer residency and possible citizenship to about 3 million of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people.

“This issue is purely China’s internal affairs, and no foreign country has the right to interfere,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said.

He said China would take necessary measures to protect its national interests in response to “the wrong acts of the United States.”

Under the law, Beijing will set up a national security office in Hong Kong to collect and analyze intelligence and deal with criminal cases related to national security.

Government critics fear Beijing will use the law to pursue political opponents. Some have questioned the legal basis for the legislation, saying it undermines the Basic Law.

An earlier attempt to pass a security law in 2003 was dropped after hundreds of thousands of people marched in Hong Kong against it.

China for years had put off another such effort. Citing a new urgency after last year’s protests, it announced it would bypass the Hong Kong legislature and enact the law on its own.

Chinese officials have railed against what they call foreign interference in the territory that they blame for encouraging the anti-government protests. Beijing condemned the protests as an attempt to permanently split Hong Kong from China.

Drafting of the law took place amid intense secrecy, with even top Hong Kong officials reportedly not given advance notice of its specifics.

Questions linger over the effects on Hong Kong’s free press that has come under increasing political and financial pressure, as well as the operations of nongovernmental organizations, particularly those with foreign connections.

The law’s passage comes after Hong Kong’s legislature in early June approved a contentious bill making it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem. Pro-China figures have also been pushing for more “patriotic” education to be introduced into the curriculum in hopes that will boost their identification with Beijing.

– – –

Zen Soo and Ken Moritsugu are reporters for The Associated Press. Moritsugu reported from Beijing.

About the Headline Photo: Pro-China supporters holding Chinese national flags, toast during a rally to celebrate the approval of a national security law for Hong Kong, in Hong Kong, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Hong Kong media are reporting that China has approved a contentious law that would allow authorities to crack down on subversive and secessionist activity in Hong Kong, sparking fears that it would be used to curb opposition voices in the semi-autonomous territory. A placard reads “Country secure, Hong Kong secure, the country prospects, the people at peace”. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

 

 

 

 

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China Starts Taxing Its Citizens for Global Income

AP Was There: Murray ends Britains 77-year Wimbledon wait What we know about coronavirus risks to school age children China Starts Taxing Its Citizens for Global Income

(Bloomberg) --

© Bloomberg Pedestrians wearing protective masks walk across a road in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, July 10, 2020. Hong Kong is closing its schools again, as a surge in coronavirus cases within the community after a long stretch without infections forces the financial hub to reinstate restrictions that had been loosened.

China has started tracking down some of its citizens living abroad to collect taxes, surprising expatriates who never had to pay levies back home on overseas income, according to people familiar with the matter.

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State-owned enterprises operating in Hong Kong, which has one of the lowest tax rates in the world, told mainland Chinese expats recently to declare their 2019 income so they can pay taxes at home, according to the people, who asked not be named because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Chinese SOEs are also informing employees working in other places such as Singapore, two of the people said.

China, which charges taxes of as high as 45%, revised its income tax rules January last year to help authorities start collecting money from its citizens worldwide — similar to what the U.S. does with Americans living abroad. But Beijing only disclosed detailed instructions this year on how to file such taxes, catching many expatriates to flat-footed.

The move signals the beginning of what could be a major shake-up for one of the largest expat communities in the world as some could see their tax bills soar. Though specific statistics on expats weren’t immediately available, Chinese state media have reported there are about 60 million ethnic Chinese living overseas.

There are 80,000 to 150,000 mainland Chinese working in Hong Kong, according to the South China Morning Post, which earlier reported on the issue. Chinese citizens working in Macau have also been told to start paying income taxes back home, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.

China’s State Taxation Administration didn’t immediately respond to a fax seeking comment.

The move could be a big blow for Chinese expats working in places such as Hong Kong, who’ve only had to pay a maximum of 15% of their salaries in taxes. That’s one third of mainland China’s highest tax bracket.

It’s not just paychecks. The rules also subject income from dividends and property sales to taxation back home, said Jia Zeliang, chief executive officer at wealth-planning adviser Ishtar Consulting Inc. That’s likely to force many companies to shoulder much of the extra tax burden or risk an exodus of Chinese expats, Jia said.

Though Chinese nationals have theoretically been obliged to pay taxes on their global income for many years, it hadn’t been enforced, said Jacky Chu, who heads PwC China’s global mobility services. The change could be a boon for accounting firms.

“We have seen a surge of companies asking for our advice,” Chu said. “China didn’t have such a large number of expats working overseas when the old tax legislation was drafted decades ago. That could be why many people were not entirely aware of the requirement.”

(Updates with comment in final two paragraphs)

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