China’s legislature on Wednesday passed a sweeping and controversial national security law that covers a wide range of state interests including its military actions overseas, but stokes fears of greater limits on citizens’ freedom. It said Hong Kong had the responsibility to protect national security, but Zheng Shuna, deputy director of the Commission for Legislative Affairs of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said the law would not be directly implemented in Hong Kong and Macau. She said it was not one of the national laws – such as those concerning diplomatic and territorial issues – that applied to the territories. “The national security law has made provisions, in principle, for Hong Kong and Macau to fulfil their responsibilities to safeguard national security. The Basic Law Article 23 of the two Special Administrative Regions has made provisions for them to enact laws of their own accord to safeguard national security,” she said. The passing of the national security law stoked fears among pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong that the city would face pressure to enact Article 23 of the Basic Law. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Wednesday again ruled out legislating the article in the remainder of his term. Article 23 requires Hong Kong to pass laws on treason, sedition and subversion. Lawmakers in Beijing on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly in favour of the national security law, with 154 backing the legislation and only one abstention, the state-run news agency Xinhua reported. The law is part of a raft of legislation pushed by President Xi Jinping’s administration that includes laws on counterterrorism and non-government organisations. The first clause of the law stated that its mission was to “safeguard national security, defend the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist system with Chinese characteristics” as well as the “realisation of the great rejuvenation of the nation”. The law defines national security as the protection of the political regime, sovereignty, national unification, territorial integrity, people’s welfare, and the “sustainable and healthy development” of the economy and society. The law also states that these and other “major national interests” should be “relatively free from danger and not be under internal and external threats”. The law emphasises the Communist Party’s leadership in national security, saying the party will direct efforts to establish “a centralised, efficient and authoritative national security leadership system”. The law states its aim is to implement military defence to prevent and resist invasions and to stop “armed subversion and separatism”, as well as protecting “military action that safeguards the nation’s overseas interest”. One clause stresses“the grasping of the guiding authority in the ideological sphere” and the prevention of the infiltration of “harmful moral standards.” Other clauses deal with the protection of the economy, grain security, the establishment of systems for the protection of cyber and information security as well as the prevention of social conflicts. It also deals with the threat of terrorism, religious cults, interference of religious issues by “overseas forces” and stressed the importance of ethnic harmony. The law also to protects China’s activities and assets in space, on the international sea bed and in polar regions. Zheng said China needed a new national security law in the face of “ever-growing national security challenges”. “We face dual pressure. Externally, the country must defend national sovereignty as well as security and development interests. Internally, it must also maintain political security and social stability,” she said, adding that a comprehensive legislation that safeguards the country from “all kinds of security threats and risks” is needed as they are “more complicated than any other times in history”. Xi, who is the head of the newly established national security commission, has said national security should cover a wide range of areas including politics, culture, the military, the economy, technology and the environment. The law has attracted controversy because it defines the remit of national security in far-reaching terms, ranging from finance, economy, politics, the military and cyber security to culture, ideology and religion. Analysts have voiced worries that the definition of specific threats in the law has not been narrowly drawn as required by international laws and it lacked checks and balances to safeguard citizens’ rights. Nicholas Bequelin, East Asia director of Amnesty International, said the definitions of the law are “dangerously over-broad” and “the law conflates the Party’s monopoly on power with national security” He said the categorisation of many activities as “national threats” would stifle debate and objective analysis of social problems. Zheng told reporters the law was for the protection of China’s core interests, and they had “been defined clearly”. Eva Pils, a China law expert at King’s College of the University of London, said the law reflected the Xi administration’s rejection of the rule of law and wider universal values and it had been drafted on the basis of neo-Maoist, neo-totalitarian political ideas. “It re-emphasises the leading position of the Party in protecting China from its perceived enemies, by references to the ‘people’s ‘democratic dictatorship’ and by apparently giving formal backing to the role of the new national security commission,” she said.