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Hong Kong will cooperate with China, says Carrie Lam; city braces for protests

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Chief executive Carrie Lam said the city would fully cooperate with China to enact the legislation, hours before a planned evening demonstration amid residents' concerns over the future of "one country, two systems," the principle by which the Asian financial hub is overseen by Beijing.

Hong Kong

HONG Kong braced for fresh demonstrations Friday and into the weekend after China announced it would impose sweeping national security rules onto the city, reigniting tensions that gripped the financial hub for months until the coronavirus ground everything to a halt.

Chief executive Carrie Lam said the city would fully cooperate with China to enact the legislation, hours before a planned evening demonstration amid residents' concerns over the future of "one country, two systems," the principle by which the Asian financial hub is overseen by Beijing.

Her comments are likely to anger demonstrators and fuel protests that have resurged in recent weeks following months of disruption levelled by the virus.

Already, demonstrators have called for rallies against Beijing-backed legislation, including a bill that would criminalise disrespecting China's national anthem, on Sunday and Wednesday.

Jimmy Sham, convener of the Civil Human Rights Front - which organised some of the biggest marches during a historic summer of pro-democracy protests last year - told reporters he hoped for a large turnout when his group called its next demonstration. He didn't disclose further details.

The plan for the law was unveiled Friday during the opening session of China's annual National People's Congress and follows seven months of fierce protests in Hong Kong last year against Beijing's rule.

The draft said the security law would "guard against, stop and punish any separatism, subversion of the national regime, terrorist group activities and such behaviours that seriously harm national security".

Mrs Lam said in a statement that the local government will "complete the legislation as soon as possible to discharge its responsibility".

The leader said the mass pro-democracy protests that rocked the Asian financial hub had "seriously undermined relations between the Chinese central government and the Hong Kong government, harmed national security and sovereignty, and challenged central authorities".

The draft proposal will be debated by China's top leaders, although in practice proposals at the rubber-stamp parliament are usually agreed in advance.

President Donald Trump warned that the US 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." BLOOMBERG, AFP

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