The new security legislation for Hong Kong has made it a crime for citizens to undermine Beijing’s authority in the territory. It could also see China installing its own security agencies in the region for the first time.
The UK has joined Australia, Canada and the US in criticising China’s decision to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong.
In a joint statement Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and ministers from the three other countries said; “China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
“The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework. It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people.”
The statement also voiced concerns that the legislation “will exacerbate the existing deep divisions in Hong Kong society.”
The four nations have called on the Chinese government to work with the Hong Kong SAR government and the people of Hong Kong to “find a mutually acceptable accommodation that will honour China’s international obligations under the UN-filed Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
Protests broke out in Hong Kong on Wednesday after the parliament discussed a different law which would make it a crime to disrespect the Chinese national anthem. Hundreds of people were arrested in protests over that and the security law, as reported by the BBC.
The new security law which makes it a crime for Hong Kong citizen’s to challenge Beijing’s authority in the territory, means Hong Kong can no longer have “a high level of autonomy” from mainland China.
China’s treatment of Hong Kong has further fuelled tensions between the US and China. Relations between the two countries have been tense over China’s claims in the South China Sea and trade, with the coronavirus pandemic adding to the acrimony.
China will take “strong countermeasures” if Washington continues to intervene in the country’s internal affairs, the Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner in Hong Kong said in on Thursday in response to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement suggesting that a new Hong Kong security bill undermines the administrative region’s autonomy from China.
Pompeo said on Wednesday he had certified to Congress that Hong Kong did not warrant the same treatment in accordance with US laws applied to the territory before 1997. The state secretary said he made the determination in light of China’s efforts to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong.
“The spokesperson emphasized that Hong Kong is part of China and its affairs are China’s internal affairs. China is rock-firm in implementing ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and enacting national security legislation for Hong Kong. We urge the US side to abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations, and immediately stop meddling with Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs as a whole. Otherwise, it would only meet with firm opposition and strong countermeasures from the 1.4 billion Chinese people, including our Hong Kong compatriots,” the statement read.
China says the legislation will aim to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference in the city, but critics fear it could lead to Hong Kongers being prosecuted – even retroactively – for criticising their or the mainland’s leadership, joining protests or exercising their current rights under local laws, cited in the BBC.