China passed the controversial national security law on Tuesday, less than 40 days since Chinese lawmakers proposed the legislation for Hong Kong. The new law criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces and will effect radical changes to the territory since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago.

The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) unanimously passed the law, delivering a huge blow to Hong Kong’s autonomy. The passage of the law paves the way for China to cement its control over Hong Kong. It also destroys the “one country two systems” framework, the terms of the former British territory’s handover to the Chinese government in 1997.

While the draft of the law has yet to be published, Beijing officials said the law was in response to the violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year. China’s official state agency Xinhua unveiled earlier this month some of the law’s provisions, including the displacement of Hong Kong’s existing legislation and the granting of the power of interpretation to the Chinese parliament’s top decision-making body, the NPC Standing Committee.

With the national security law in place, Beijing can now set up a national security office in Hong Kong to supervise, guide, and support the city government. The law also gives Beijing the power to exercise jurisdiction on certain cases. However, it remains unclear which specific activities are to be considered illegal under the new law and what punishments they carry.

When China proposed imposing an anti-sedition law on Hong Kong in May, critics from around the world were quick to condemn the legislation. This is despite Beijing and Hong Kong authorities’ claim that the law is aimed at “a few troublemakers” and will not affect the freedoms and rights of Hong Kong citizens.

Meanwhile, the national security law is also expected to intensify Beijing’s tension with the United States, Britain, and other Western governments. On Monday, the U.S. started eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under the U.S. law in response to the legislation. The move halts all defense exports and restricts the territory’s access to high technology products.

Hong Kong Leader Carrie Lam Carrie Lam defended China's new national security law in a speech on Tuesday, May 26. Getty/ Anthony Wallace