China’s new national security legislation may be used to establish an intelligence agency in Hong Kong similar to the colonial-era Special Branch, the territory’s former leader, Leung Chun-ying, said on Saturday. China’s Parliament, the National People’s Congress, announced on Thursday a draft decision on “establishing and improving a legal system and enforcement mechanism for Hong Kong to safeguard national security”.
Mr. Leung’s comments could give weight to concern among some Hong Kongers and Western governments that national security legislation will herald a new era of political surveillance and law enforcement controlled from the mainland. Washington called the law a “death knell” for the city’s autonomy. “There is a possibility ... of the central people’s government authorising Hong Kong law enforcement bodies, such as the police, to enforce the law,” said Mr. Leung.
Hong Kong already has an elite 700 officer-strong Security Wing that serving and retired police say has been increasingly replicating the work of the colonial-era Special Branch, including monitoring of some political and student activists. Senior wing officials liaise with mainland security and intelligence services.