Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks via live video transmission at the National People's Congress in Beijing. Photo: Noel Celis/AFP

Beijing’s controversial proposal to introduce new veto powers on Hong Kong’s legislative elections are “lawful, just and reasonable,” China’s foreign minister said Sunday, after the move was criticized as an attack on the city’s freedoms.

Legislation to allow China’s communist rulers to vet all election candidates in Hong Kong was put forward Friday at the opening of the nation’s rubber-stamp parliament in Beijing.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi, speaking at a press conference on the congress sidelines in Beijing, said the change was necessary to maintain enduring peace and stability in Hong Kong after huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy rallies in 2019.

District councilor Tsang Kin-shing (L), convener of Civil Human Rights Front Figo Chan (2nd L), former lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung (C), Tang Sai Lai (2nd R) and Avery Ng (R) arrive in court to face charges of inciting an unauthorized assembly. Photo: Isaac Lawrence/AFP

Wang said the rules would promote “Hong Kong’s transition from chaos to governance,” and were completely constitutional.

The draft decision was announced a day after dozens of democracy campaigners in the former British colony were jailed under a national security law passed during last year’s parliamentary session.

Legislation submitted to the Congress is nearly always approved overwhelmingly by the Communist Party-controlled chamber.

The proposed rules drew swift international condemnation, with the United States and European Union saying China was violating guarantees of autonomy granted to Hong Kong during the transition from British rule in 1997.

The move constitutes a direct attack on Hong Kong’s freedoms, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Beijing has moved quickly to dismantle the financial hub’s democratic pillars in response to huge protests that paralysed the city for months.

Chinese officials have repeatedly said in recent weeks that only “staunch patriots” those loyal to the Communist Party should be involved in governing Hong Kong.

Wang on Friday said “to love Hong Kong and to be a patriot are exactly the same thing.”