Beijing unveiled sweeping national security legislation for Hong Kong on Tuesday, symbolically asserting its authority over the city just an hour before the 23rd anniversary of its return to Chinese rule.

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The law, which took effect from 1500 GMT on June 30, an hour before the handover anniversary, ushers in the most profound changes to Hong Kong’s way of life since it was handed back to China by Britain in 1997 and exacerbating concerns over freedoms in the financial hub.

Under the legislation, mainland security agencies will be based in Hong Kong officially for the first time, with powers that go beyond the city’s local laws, a move expected to unnerve some diplomats, business leaders and human rights groups.

Crimes of secession and sedition will be punishable by up to life in prison, according to the law, stoking concerns it heralds a more authoritarian era in a city which has been wracked by anti-government protests for the past year.

Damaging transport vehicles and equipment would be considered terrorism, according to the legislation, acts that defined some of the more violent anti-government protests.

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