Hong Kong: Pompeo condemns China’s law as ‘death knell’ for freedoms

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 22, 2020

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has condemned China's plan to impose a new security law in Hong Kong, calling it a "death knell" for the city's freedoms.

Following China's announcement on the law, two senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Chris Van Hollen, proposed a law that would impose sanctions on anyone involved in curtailing Hong Kong's autonomy, including banks.

For two decades, Beijing has been frustrated by widespread popular opposition to national security laws that were thwarted by mass protests in Hong Kong during an initial push in 2003.

The measure, submitted Friday on the opening day of China's national legislative session, is strongly opposed by pro-democracy lawmakers in semi-autonomous Hong Kong.

Pompeo's admonition comes as the rhetoric between Washington and Beijing has grown increasingly adversarial amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Trump administration has foisted blame on China for failing to be sufficiently transparent at the outset of the deadly. virus.

Activist Wong said he has "no doubts at all" Beijing "will continue to crack down on Hong Kong people who fight for democracy and freedom" and vowed protesters will take to the streets until their voices are heard.

The Chinese Communist Party is claiming the law is about "safeguarding national security", and so not fit for the LegCo but for the mainland National People's Congress, whose annual meeting starts Friday.

Critics feared this would allow Beijing to persecute political dissidents living in Hong Kong, which under the "One country, two systems" agreement enjoys greater political freedoms than mainland provinces.

"This is nearly like a nuclear option, which once you use it, everyone will get hurt, and it will be very hard to build Hong Kong back up again", Kwok told the conservative Heritage Foundation by videoconference.

It is also a way for China to send a message to the U.S., which is debating whether to continue granting Hong Kong special trade status under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, passed previous year to pressure Beijing into respecting the city's rights.

Riot police stand guard near a group of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who are stopped for breaking restrictions on social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic
Pompeo: China measure a 'death knell' for Hong Kong autonomy

The US is now considering whether to extend Hong Kong's preferential trading and investment privileges. For months, hundreds of thousands of Kong Kongers risked their lives and their livelihoods by protesting efforts by the city's pro-Beijing leaders to extend China's direct power over their citizens.

The UK Government has yet to respond to the move by Beijing.

That article says Hong Kong "must improve" national security, before adding: "When needed, relevant national security organs of the Central People's Government will set up agencies in Hong Kong to fulfil relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law". "I find it hard to believe this will not trigger either a massive peaceful and orderly demonstration or more vocal and aggressive protests..."

The notion of "terrorism" also features in this proposed law.

Tanya Chan, a pro-democracy member of member of Hong Kong's Legislative Council, countered that the proposal violates the Basic Law.

Around this time a year ago, criticism was mounting in Hong Kong over a proposed bill that would allow people wanted by the Chinese authorities to be sent to the mainland.

China could essentially place the draft law into Annex III of the Basic Law, which covers national laws that must be implemented in Hong Kong - either by legislation, or decree.

Beijing may also fear September's elections to Hong Kong's legislature.

The United States reacted swiftly to China's announcement, with State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus warning that imposing such a law on Hong Kong would be "highly destabilising, and would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the worldwide community". Wang Chen, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC, said since the return of Hong Kong, China has been firmly implementing the principles of "one country, two systems", "the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong", and a high degree of autonomy.

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