Guests drive past barriers near the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the Hong…
Guests drive past barriers near the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region after its official inauguration in Hong Kong on July 8, 2020.

HONG KONG - China opened its national security office in Hong Kong Wednesday, a key part of the mainland’s tough new oversight of the semi-autonomous financial hub.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam unveiled a plaque at the Metropark Hotel marking the popular tourist lodging as the site of the new Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong. She was joined by Zheng Yanxiong, the newly appointed head of the security office, Luo Huining, the head of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, and her two predecessors, Tung Chee-hwa and Leung Chun-ying.

Luo defended the office’s presence during the ceremony, saying “those with ulterior motives and who are anti-China and seek to destabilize Hong Kong have not only stigmatized 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 the Hong Kong residents.”

Under the new national security law for Hong Kong, anyone believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power and collusion with foreign forces could face life in prison. The new law was a response to the massive and often violent pro-democracy demonstrations that engulfed the financial hub in the latter half of 2019.

Critics say the measure effectively ends the “One Country, Two Systems” policy under which Hong Kong was promised a high degree of autonomy after the handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

On the same day the national security office was opened, Hong Kong’s education bureau banned students from playing or singing “Glory to Hong Kong,” the unofficial anthem of the pro-democracy movement.