China moves to impose security laws on Hong Kong

China submitted a proposal to enact new Hong Kong security legislation during the opening day of the National People's Congress on Friday. The proposed legislation has faced significant backlash from the US, Taiwan and pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong.

Speaking at China's annual parliamentary session, Premier Li Keqiang said that China would "establish and improve the legal systems and mechanisms to safeguard national security" in Hong Kong.

China is holding a weeklong session for delegates from across the country nearly two months after scheduled. The delay was caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Sieren's China: The National People's Congress and pandemic

Moment of silence

The session began with 2,897 delegates observing a moment of silence for the victims of the coronavirus outbreak. China has reported over 80,000 confirmed cases of the virus. Over 4,500 people have died.

During his address at the Congress’ opening ceremony, Premier Li warned that the battle against the virus was not over as he called on the country to "redouble our efforts" to revive China’s struggling economy.

Key economic developments

In the face of "great uncertainty", Li said that China would be laying emphasis on higher spending to revive the battered economy instead of setting a growth target, a rare move for one of the largest economies in the world.

Instead, Li said that Beijing will "give priority to stabilizing employment and ensuring living standards."

The premier announced that Beijing will issue 3.75 trillion yuan ($526 billion) in special government bonds to boost infrastructure spending in the virus-hit economy. This indicates an increase of close to 1.6-trillion-yuan over last year.

Defense boost

The country’s defense spending will rise by 6.6% under the new budget report. This is lower than the 7.5% increase that came in 2019.

The Chinese economy shrank 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 for the first time in close to four decades. The country has been rattled by a coronavirus outbreak, which first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

see/aw (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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