İrem UZUN -TDO- China's parliament has approved a decision to move forward with national security legislation for Hong Kong that critics fear could undermine the city's autonomy. The National People's Congress on Thursday voted 2,878 to 1 in favor of the decision to empower its standing committee to draft the legislation, with six abstentions.

The legislation criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign interference in Hong Kong and it says that "when needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People's Government will set up agencies in Hong Kong to fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law." That has been interpreted as allowing Beijing to set up its own security agencies in Hong Kong, adding a parallel police force. Hong Kong pro-democracy protests have resumed in response. Under the new law, "disrespecting" China's national anthem is also counted as a criminal offence.

Hours before the bill was passed, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said developments in Hong Kong meant it could no longer be considered to have "a high degree of autonomy" from mainland China. In a statement on Thursday, the office of China's foreign ministry in Hong Kong said it "firmly opposed and refuted" Pompeo's statement and urged the U.S. to "immediately stop meddling" in China's internal affairs. It described U.S. criticism of the new draft law as "utterly imperious, unreasonable and shameless". U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will announce what action he will take by the end of the week.

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