Pompeo Says US Will Take Action Over Ousting of 4 Hong Kong Lawmakers

Pompeo Says US Will Take Action Over Ousting of 4 Hong Kong Lawmakers
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference in Washington, on Sept. 21, 2020. (Patrick Semansk/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Frank Fang

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Beijing over its decision to pass a resolution that led to the disqualification of four Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers.

“Beijing’s onslaught against Hong Kong’s freedoms and liberties continues,” Pompeo said in a Nov. 12 statement.

He added: “This resolution tramples on the rights of the people of Hong Kong to choose their elected representatives as guaranteed by the Basic Law and further exposes Beijing’s blatant disregard for its international commitments under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.” The latter refers to the international treaty Beijing signed in 1984 that paved the way for Hong Kong’s handover back to China in 1997.

Pompeo warned: “We will hold accountable the people responsible for these actions and policies that erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms.”

Under the treaty, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) promised to guarantee Hongkongers basic freedoms not granted to mainland Chinese under the regime’s rule for at least 50 years after 1997 through the “one country, two systems” model.

On Nov. 11, the Standing Committee of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, passed a resolution outlining conditions under which Hong Kong lawmakers could be disqualified, such as “seeking out external forces to interfere with Hong Kong affairs.”

Shortly after the resolution was adopted, the Hong Kong government announced that four incumbent lawmakers of the city’s legislature (LegCo) would be disqualified, including Kwok Ka-ki and Alvin Yeung of the local Civic Party.

To support their disqualified colleagues, 15 lawmakers of the pro-democracy camp announced their mass resignations, and many of them submitted their resignation letters on Nov. 12, including Claudia Mo and Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the local Democratic Party.

“Once again, the CCP’s twisted vision of patriotism is a pretext to stifle freedom and the call for democracy,” Pompeo said.

He added: “We stand with the disqualified pan-Democratic lawmakers, the pro-democracy lawmakers who resigned in protest, and the people of Hong Kong.”

On Nov. 11, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien stated that the United States could impose more sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials over the lawmakers’ dismissal.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and 10 other Hong Kong and Chinese officials were sanctioned by the Trump administration in August for undermining the city’s freedoms. On Nov. 9, four more officials were hit with sanctions over their roles in implementing Beijing’s new national security law in Hong Kong. The law punishes vaguely-defined crimes such as secession and subversion of the one-party communist state with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and Taiwan, have also voiced concerns over the ousting of the four lawmakers. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a global coalition of lawmakers, expressed solidarity with the disqualified lawmakers.

In response to international criticism, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin, at a daily briefing on Nov. 12, said “other countries have no right to make irresponsible remarks and interfere.”

A day earlier on Nov. 11, China’s state-run media Xinhua published a commentary saying that “the implementation of the ‘one country, two systems’ principle will be steered off course” if Hong Kong was not governed by “patriots.”

The CCP has long used the call of patriotism to drive the party’s agenda. As recently as 2016, the CCP’s Ministry of Education reminded schools to “reinforce patriotic education” and urged universities to “deepen their research into the importance of patriotism using the Marxist and socialist theories” as it continued to mould another generation of “supporters of the motherland” that the party can use for its socialist goals with “Chinese characteristics.”

Hong Kong activist Nathan Law, who is now in London after fleeing Hong Kong in early July, took to his Twitter account on Nov. 13 to say that “one country, two systems” is gone, while retweeting a comment by Pompeo.

On Thursday, the Hong Kong Bar Association issued a statement saying that “legal certainty has been greatly impaired” over the Hong Kong government’s ousting of the four lawmakers. The association is one of Hong Kong’s most respected and influential legal bodies.

It added: “The entirety of the government’s approach in stripping the four legislators … without affording them an opportunity to be heard, violates the basic principles of fairness and due process inherent in the Rule of Law.”

Many U.S. congress members have expressed concerns over the unseating.

The bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China, which monitors human rights in the communist country, said on Twitter that the disqualification “is another blow to the rule of law” in Hong Kong on Nov. 11.

“We condemn #Beijing’s efforts to destroy democratic voices & urge a coordinated int’l response to this violation of China’s int’l obligations,” it stated.