- The four countries said the law would “curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
- US President Donald Trump has been very critical of the move by China, and has vowed that the US will punish China in retaliation.
- China's party-run mouthpieces defended the law, saying that it will guarantee the stability and autonomy of the territory.
China’s authoritative decision to impose a national security law on Hong Kong continues to receive international condemnation, fueled by stern warnings of dire consequences from Western countries. The United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Australia accused Beijing of violating its international obligations towards Hong Kong.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the four countries, which are leading international opposition to the authoritative move by China, said the law would “curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.”
The Chinese security bill will punish “secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference” in the city, as well as acts that jeopardize national security. It will also allow mainland security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong. For Western countries, the goal is to silence the Hong Kong opposition, and undermine freedoms. The Central Government in Beijing denies it.
The adoption of the bill on Thursday by the Chinese National People’s Congress follows the massive protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2019 in opposition to the influence of China in the territory. Hong Kong has wide autonomy, freedom of expression, and an independent justice system under the “one country, two systems” principle. This has governed relations with Beijing since the territory was returned by the United Kingdom to China in 1997.
End of Autonomy?
US President Donald Trump has been very critical of the move by China, and has vowed that the US will punish China in retaliation. “We’ll be announcing tomorrow what we’re doing with respect to China,” Trump told reporters on Thursday. “We’re not happy with China,” he added.
The vote in the NPC on Thursday came hours after Washington formally declared that Hong Kong no longer enjoyed the autonomy promised by China. This opens the way to abolish the US economic and trade privileges granted to the former British colony. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Beijing is breaching the agreements signed with the United Kingdom, which gave Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.
The Basic Law, a small Constitution that has been in force in Hong Kong since 1997, obliges the Hong Kong authorities to implement a law on national security. However, an initiative like this one hit a snag in 2003, following massive protests that compelled China to abandon the move.
Seemingly, China has, to a very large extent, been out-witted by Hong Kong, and it probably feels that imposing authoritative legislation on the territory is the only way out. In response to the criticisms, China, on its part, remains adamant and strongly supports the move, affirming that it will guarantee the stability and autonomy of the territory.
As expected, the Chinese local media today wrote many stories in support of the law, saying that it will guarantee the stability and autonomy of the territory. The law will only apply to “a small minority of people suspected of committing crimes against national security,” the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, wrote in its editorial.
However, in Hong Kong, the pro-democracy movement had divergent opinions. “It’s the end of Hong Kong,” pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo told AFP. “They are cutting off our souls, taking away the values which we’ve always embraced, values like human rights, democracy, rule of law,” she added.