Countries Decry Beijing’s Move to Tighten Grip Over Hong Kong

Countries Decry Beijing’s Move to Tighten Grip Over Hong Kong
Pro-democracy protesters light candles during a vigil outside the Pacific Place shopping mall in the Admiralty area of Hong Kong on May 15, 2020. (Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)
Cathy He

Governments around the world have decried the Chinese regime’s proposed national security law for Hong Kong, a move seen as a major blow to the city’s autonomy.

The UK, Australia, and Canada in a joint statement on Friday said they were “deeply concerned” by the plans. The regime’s rubber-stamp parliament is set to pass a law, bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature, to ban “treason, secession, sedition, and subversion.” The legislation could also see the regime’s securities agencies set up bases in the city.

“Making such a law on Hong Kong’s behalf without the direct participation of its people, legislature or judiciary would clearly undermine the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy,” the governments said. Under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which set the terms of Hong Kong’s transfer to Chinese rule, the regime agreed to grant the city autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland, under the formula of “one country, two systems.”

Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the move, saying it would mark the “death knell” of the city’s autonomy guaranteed under the treaty.

“The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its international obligations, and respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law,” Pompeo said in a statement.

The “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” approved by President Donald Trump last year requires the State Department to certify at least annually that Hong Kong retains enough autonomy to justify favorable trading terms that have helped it maintain its position as a world financial center.

The State Department said it has delayed the release of the report to take into account developments at the National People’s Congress, the regime’s nominal legislature, which is convening until the end of next week.

Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, told Fox News on Thursday that Washington has “lots of tools to express our displeasure.” Neither he nor Pompeo detailed actions Washington might take.

“There are privileges that Hong Kong accrues because it’s considered a free system. We’d have to look over whether those concessions could continue to be made,” he said.

“If China moves forward and takes strong action under this new national security law ... America will respond, and I think other countries in the world will respond, including the United Kingdom and many other of our allies and friends.”

Reuters contributed to this report. 
Cathy He is the politics editor at the Washington D.C. bureau. She was previously an editor for U.S.-China and a reporter covering U.S.-China relations.
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