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story.lead_photo.caption Dozens of people gather Friday at a Hong Kong mall to protest the new national security law passed in China for the semiautonomous city. More photos at (AP/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG -- Dozens of people protested in a mall in Hong Kong on Friday after a vote by China's ceremonial parliament to approve legislation that many believe will restrict opposition political activity and civil society in the Asian financial center.

The protesters chanted slogans in the main atrium of the mall in the high-end Central district, some draping banners over the balconies with slogans such as "Independence for Hong Kong."

Police waited in vans parked prominently outside the mall but did not attempt to break up the gathering.

China's National People's Congress on Thursday voted to approve the bill that will now be sent to its standing committee for final approval. Details of the final version of the law aren't known, but China says it will prohibit separatist activities and actions that might threaten the Communist Party's monopoly on political power in mainland China.

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Beijing and its supporters in Hong Kong are defending the legislative move against criticism from foreign countries, including the U.S., which has threatened to revoke special trade privileges granted to the former British colony when it was handed over to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" framework in which it was guaranteed its own political, legal, social and legal institutions for 50 years.

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China would not tolerate any interference in what it considers a strictly internal matter.

"We advise the U.S. side to have a correct understanding of the situation and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs," Zhao said. "If the U.S. insists on jeopardizing China's interests, China will definitely take all necessary measures to fight back."

Tensions between the administration of President Donald Trump and China are already high over trade, human rights, China's threats against Taiwan and the coronavirus pandemic.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday visited a Hong Kong bookstore that reopened in Taipei after its co-owner was abducted to the Chinese mainland, in a show of support for Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement and opposition to the national-security law.

Tsai told the bookstore owner, Lam Wing-kee, that her administration will "provide whatever help it could to our Hong Kong friends." Taiwan this week said that it will extend residency rights for Hong Kong residents who have moved to the self-governing island democracy in increasing numbers over the past year.

China claims Taiwan as its own territory to be brought under its control by force if necessary. The two sides separated during a civil war in 1949.

The European Union criticized China on Friday for asserting more control over Hong Kong and suggested the move would have an impact on China-EU relations, but the 27-nation bloc ruled out taking any action against its major trading partner.

The criticism came after EU foreign ministers weighed the need for a tougher policy on China, which has been accused of trying to influence European officials, against the potential damage to business ties between the Asian economic giant and the world's biggest trading bloc.

"We express our grave concern at the steps taken by China," EU foreign-policy chief Josep Borrell said after chairing a video meeting of the foreign ministers. "This risks to seriously undermine the 'one country, two systems' principle and the high degree of autonomy of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong."

Borrell told reporters, "Our relations with China are based on mutual respect and trust. I want to underline this -- respect and trust -- but this decision calls this into question."

The U.K. government warned that it would extend the visas and possibly provide a path to citizenship for some British passport holders from Hong Kong.

Gallery: Protests in Hong Kong after China backed security law

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Asked what action the EU might be prepared to take and whether sanctions were discussed, Borrell said "there was only one country that made a reference to the issue of sanctions. I don't think that sanctions are the way to resolve our problems with China."

He said the bloc "will continue trying to put pressure on the Chinese authorities" to make them aware that the clampdown on Hong Kong "will affect the way we deal with some of the issues of mutual interest, but there is nothing more on the agenda."

The United States has called on China to back off on the security law.

An overwhelming majority of Hong Kong residents said they oppose the new legislation.

However, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued a letter Friday to the city's people asking them to support the legislation.

Lam, who previously defended the legislation even as calls for protests grew, asserted in her letter that Hong Kong's residents would continue to enjoy freedoms of speech, press, assembly and demonstration.

Information for this article was contributed by Lorne Cook and David Rising of The Associated Press; and by Dominic Lau, Karen Leigh and Iain Marlow of Bloomberg News.

A Section on 05/30/2020

Print Headline: New Hong Kong law protested


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