China opens HK headquarters for its secret police

HONG KONG • China opened a new office yesterday for its intelligence agents to operate openly in Hong Kong for the first time under a tough new security law, in a public display of its tightening control over the finance hub.

The new base is located in a rapidly converted hotel overlooking the city’s Victoria Park, a location that has hosted pro-democracy protests for years, including an annual vigil marking Beijing’s deadly Tiananmen crackdown.

A plaque bearing the security agency’s name was unveiled early yesterday in front of Hong Kong government and mainland officials — including Beijing’s top envoy to the city and the commander of the Chinese army barracks in Hong Kong.

Police blocked roads around the former Metropark Hotel and surrounded it with water-filled barriers. A Chinese flag was unfurled on a pole erected outside the building, while a plaque with the national emblem went up overnight.

City leader Carrie Lam — a pro-Beijing appointee — hailed the opening as “a historic moment” and said China’s intelligence apparatus would be an “important partner” in helping to safeguard national security.

Luo Huining, Beijing’s top envoy to Hong Kong, said the city had “bade farewell to the days when it was defenceless in national security”.

Beijing imposed the new law on Hong Kong last week targeting acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, in response to huge and often violent democracy protests that erupted last year.

The law is the most radical change in Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy since Britain handed

the city back to China in 1997. Similar national security laws are used to crush dissent on the mainland and police in Hong Kong have already arrested people voicing certain political views now deemed illegal, such as advocating independence or greater autonomy. AFP