China's Parliament, on the closing day of its one-week session yesterday, endorsed a resolution paving the way for a Hong Kong national security law.
Details of the law will be fleshed out by the National People's Congress' standing committee, which will consult the Hong Kong government and the Basic Law Committee - a panel of experts from Hong Kong and the mainland.
Observers believe the process could be completed as quickly as in the next few months, when the law will be inserted into Annex 3 of the Basic Law - Hong Kong's mini Constitution - essentially bypassing the city's legislature.
"The decision adopted at the National People's Congress session is designed for study implementation of 'one country, two systems' and Hong Kong's long-term prosperity and stability," Premier Li Keqiang said yesterday.
But there are concerns that the sweeping law, which would ban foreign interference and activities that "harm the rule of law", represents an erosion of the freedoms guaranteed for Hong Kong until at least 2047.
The United States, Australia, Canada and Britain yesterday issued a joint statement criticising China for the law, which they said would threaten freedom and breach a 1984 Sino-British agreement on Hong Kong's autonomy.