Leading Hong Kong democracy campaigners were disqualified Thursday from upcoming elections after four student activists were arrested for social media posts, sparking warnings of a new "terror" under authoritarian China.
The Hong Kong governing administration has defended the regulation as needed to secure national security, and promised that it would only impact a very small selection of people today.
Under the new law, Chinese security agencies can now operate openly in Hong Kong. Previous arrests under the law were on-the-spot detentions of protesters carrying pro-independence flags and banners with revolutionary slogans.
The Government has suspended New Zealand's extradition treaty with Hong Kong over the territory's controversial national security law, saying its justice system's independence from China can no longer be trusted.
At least 15 people have now been arrested under the new law.
In a declaration, Sophie Richardson, China director for Human Rights Watch, stated the arrests were a "gross misuse of this draconian law (which make) clear that the aim is to silence dissent, not protect national security".
It said the USA branch will "promote our advocacy of Hong Kong independence to Hong Kong nationals in America and freedom loving Americans, convince [the] United States to support our dream of Hong Kong independence..."
About 56% of Hong Kong residents oppose the legislation, compared with 34% who support it, according to a Reuters/Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute poll released before the law's enactment.
China considers Hong Kong to be an "inalienable" part of the country, so calls for independence are anathema to China's Communist Party leaders.
"I hope persons will fully grasp that any delay is thanks to neighborhood security and not political considerations".
Fearful of repercussions for speaking publicly, this Hong Kong citizen - also a New Zealand citizen living here - would only talk to RNZ anonymously.
The government made the announcement on Thursday, one day before candidacy registration closes.
Pro-democracy figures have denounced any suggestion to postpone the election. The disqualification of Civic Party candidates signals Beijing is becoming less tolerant of even moderate democrats, who have for decades been a vocal opposition in the legislature.
Last year, pro-democracy candidates won a landslide victory in local council elections.
"Beijing [has] now staged the biggest-ever crackdown on the city's election, by disqualifying almost all pro-democracy runners, from young progressive groups to traditional moderate parties", tweeted Joshua Wong.
Ms Lam is suspected of wanting to cancel September's elections to the legislative council.
CNN's Isaac Yee, Vanesse Chan, Philip Wang, Jadyn Sham and Sarah Faidell contributed reporting.