Beijing opened its new national security office in Hong Kong on Wednesday, turning a hotel in the bustling shopping and commercial district of Causeway Bay into its new headquarters.
The office will oversee the Hong Kong government’s enforcement of Beijing’s sweeping national security legislation that will punish acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
The office’s chief, Zhang Yanxiong, and Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam attended the opening ceremony at the former Metropark Hotel, which offers views across the city’s Victoria Harbour.
The law puts mainland security agents in Hong Kong for the first time with powers to investigate and prosecute national security crimes and allows extradition to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.
Beijing imposed the law on its freest city last week, pushing the former British colony on to a more authoritarian path and drawing condemnation from some Western governments, lawyers and rights groups.
Critics of the law fear it will crush coveted freedoms in the Chinese-ruled city, while supporters say it will bring stability after a year of sometimes violent protests that plunged the city into its biggest crisis in decades.