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What you need to know about Hong Kong's new national security law

June 26, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

HONG KONG, CHINA - MAY 22: Pro-democracy lawmakers hold placards to protest against the pro-Beijing lawmakers at the House Committee's election of vice chairpersons, presided by pro-Beijing lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-King at the Legislative Council on May 22, 2020 in Hong Kong, China. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on Friday during the National People's Congress that Beijing would establish a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for safeguarding national security in Hong Kong. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

China is about to pass a new national security law in Hong Kong, sparking widespread fear and controversy. What exactly is it, and why is it so worrying?

(CNN)China is introducing a sweeping national security law for Hong Kong that has sparked protest, fear and controversy in the semi-autonomous city.

Critics say the law, which in some cases could overide Hong Kong's own legal processes, marks an erosion of the city's precious civil and political freedoms; the Chinese and local governments argue it's necessary to curb unrest and uphold mainland sovereignty.

Beijing has been asking Hong Kong to pass a national security law since 1997, when the former British colony was handed back to China.

While Hong Kong has an independent legal system, a back door in its mini-constitution allows Beijing to make law in the city -- meaning there's not much the Hong Kong public or leadership can do about it.

The law will allow mainland Chinese officials to operate in Hong Kong for the first time and give Beijing the power to override local laws.

Beijing will establish a national security office, staffed by mainland security services to supervise local authorities in policing the law, according to Xinhua. Hong Kong's top official will pick which judges hear national security cases, jeopardizing the city's independent judiciary.

Why didn't Hong Kong pass the law itself?

China's announcement of the law was met with fierce resistance from much of Hong Kong society.

Hong Kong Police Commissioner Chris Tang told Chinese state broadcaster CCTV in May that the law "will not affect Hong Kong people's rights and freedom" and will help the city "become more stable and safe. "

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