China’s ruling Communist Party has set in motion a controversial national security law for Hong Kong, a move seen as a major blow to the city’s freedoms.
The law to ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” could bypass Hong Kong’s lawmakers.
Critics say Beijing is breaking its promise to allow Hong Kong freedoms not seen elsewhere in China.
Pro-democracy activists have called for mass protests against what they see erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.
Anger was already apparent on Friday, as a group of protesters descended on China’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.
The draft law was submitted at the annual National People’s Congress (NPC), which largely rubber-stamps decisions already taken by the Communist leadership, but is still the most important political event of the year.
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region and an economic powerhouse, was required to introduce security legislation after the handover from British control to Chinese rule in 1997.
After last year’s wave of sustained and violent protest, Beijing is now attempting to push them through, arguing “law-based and forceful measures” must be taken to “prevent, stop and punish” such protests in the future.