China is to propose national security laws for Hong Kong in response to last year's often violent pro-democracy protests which plunged the city into its deepest turmoil since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The 'South China Morning Post', citing unnamed sources, said the laws would ban secession, foreign interference, terrorism and all seditious activities aimed at toppling the central government and any external interference in the former British colony.
The legislation, which could be introduced as a motion to China's parliament, could be a turning point for its freest and most international city, potentially triggering a revision of its special status in Washington and sparking more unrest.
Online posts have already urged people to gather to protest and dozens were seen shouting pro-democracy slogans in a shopping mall as riot police stood nearby.
Hong Kong people took to the streets last year, sometimes in their millions, to protest a now-withdrawn bill which would have allowed extraditions of criminal suspects to mainland China.
The movement broadened to include demands for broader democracy amid perceptions Beijing was tightening its grip over the city.
"If Beijing passes the law how will civil society resist repressive laws? How much impact will it unleash onto Hong Kong as an international financial centre?" said Ming Sing, a political scientist at Hong Kong University.
The technical details of the proposals remain unclear but an announcement was to be made in Beijing, a senior Hong Kong government source said.
China's parliament, the National People's Congress, is due to begin its annual session today after being delayed for months by the coronavirus.
A previous attempt by Hong Kong to introduce national security legislation in 2003 was met with mass peaceful protests and shelved.