China’s secret state security agency, charged with monitoring and detaining those considered a threat to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), could become more open in their operations in Hong Kong if the new national security law is passed.

This measure states,  “When necessary the relevant national security organs of the Central People’s Government will set up agencies” in Hong Kong, which is equivalent to the Ministry of State Security having a greater presence in the semi-autonomous territory.

According to Axios, the Ministry of State Security is the main political security and intelligence agency in China and operates both at home and abroad, monitoring criminal political targets, detaining and torturing those considered to be threats to the CCP and carrying out traditional espionage.

While little is known about the agency’s activities, it has been accused of stealing U.S. state secrets, as well as torturing dissidents.

One of the most emblematic cases is that of Causeway Bay Books, a bookstore known for promoting press freedom whose employees were abducted from Hong Kong and other places to end up being detained in mainland China in 2015.

Furthermore, as Business Insider pointed out, the new security law for Hong Kong if enacted by the National People’s Congress would allow the CCP to unilaterally draft and enforce national security laws in the territory, which would have a direct impact on its autonomy.

Details of the forthcoming law are not known at this stage but it is known that it would directly target anti-government movements by prohibiting the promotion of secession, subversion, and foreign interference.

Proposed national security law

According to a draft of the proposed law: “When needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People’s Government will set up agencies in Hong Kong to fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law.”

Rodney Faraon, a former senior CIA intelligence officer told Axios: “If Chinese intelligence agencies are allowed to operate openly and officially, then that becomes an alternative center of power to the law enforcement agencies that the Hong Kong government currently has, one that would undoubtedly have legal primacy in the jurisdiction.”

Hong Kong is currently governed under a “one country, two systems” policy with the CCP, which gives it a high degree of autonomy while allowing it to have a separate political, legal, and economic system from China until 2047.

However, the political power of mainland China has had a considerable impact on the way the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is administered in recent years. Last week, a controversial law was proposed, which punishes anyone who dares to insult the national anthem with up to three years’ imprisonment.

Ben Bland, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Australia told Business Insider, “Beijing has been intensifying the pressure on the city over the last decade and this moves the campaign of repression to a new, more concerning phase.”