China opens new Hong Kong security agency headquarters

Hong Kong (AFP) –


China on Wednesday opened a new office for its security agents to operate openly in Hong Kong for the first time under a tough new law, transforming a hotel into the force's headquarters.

"The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was inaugurated here on Wednesday morning," China's official Xinhua news agency said.

The new base is the Metropark Hotel, a skyscraper overlooking Hong Kong's Victoria Park.

A plaque bearing the security agency's name was unveiled early Wednesday in front of Hong Kong government and police officials, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

Police blocked roads around the hotel and surrounded it with heavy water-filled barriers.

A Chinese flag was unfurled on a pole erected outside the building while a plaque bearing the emblem of the People's Republic of China went up overnight.

Beijing imposed a new security law on Hong Kong last week targeting acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion.

The law is the most radical change in Hong Kong's freedoms and autonomy since Britain handed the city back to China in 1997.

The content of the law was kept secret until it was enacted and bypassed Hong Kong's legislature.

China has said it will have jurisdiction over the most serious cases, toppling the legal firewall that has existed between its party-controlled courts and Hong Kong's independent judiciary since the handover from Britain in 1997.

Among the many precedent-breaking provisions the law contains is authorisation for China's security apparatus to work openly inside Hong Kong, with powers to investigate and prosecute national security crimes.