China converts Hong Kong hotel into new national security office
China opened its powerful national security office in Hong Kong on Wednesday, turning a hotel near a city-centre park that has been one of the most popular venues for pro-democracy protests into its new headquarters.
The office, which operates beyond the scrutiny of local courts or other institutions, will oversee the Hong Kong government’s enforcement of the sweeping national security legislation that Beijing imposed on the city last week.
The legislation gives its agents, operating openly in the global financial hub for the first time, enforcement powers.
It allows them to take suspects across the border for trials in Communist Party-controlled courts and gives them special privileges, including that Hong Kong authorities cannot search or detain them, or even inspect their vehicles.
It was unclear how many mainland agents will be stationed in the former Metropark Hotel, a 266-room, 33-storey building in the shopping and commercial district of Causeway Bay, near Victoria Park.
At the opening ceremony, chief of the security office Zheng Yanxiong said he would enforce the law strictly “without infringing on the legitimate rights and interests of any individual or organisation”.
Luo Huining, head of China’s Liaison Office in the city, Beijing’s top representative office, said the office was “the gatekeeper of national security” and people who loved China and Hong Kong welcomed it.
“Those with ulterior motives and who are anti-China and seek to destabilise Hong Kong have not only stigmatised the office, but also smeared the legal system and rule of law in the Chinese mainland in an attempt to stir up unnecessary worries and fears among Hong Kong residents,” Luo said.