Daily US Times: Political figures from across the world have added to the growing condemnation of Beijing’s planned new security law in Hong Kong.
Signatories from Australia, North America, Asia, and Europe called the plans a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms”.
China is seeking to pass a law that would ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” in the territory and rejects criticism of the move.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the plans earlier this week, which he described as a “death knell” for the city’s freedoms.
Canada, Australia, and the UK have also expressed their ”deep concern”.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s leader, who is seen as a part of the pro-Beijing political establishment, has pledged full support for the proposed law. She said Hong Kong’s freedoms would remain unchanged.
The Chinese foreign ministry branch in Hong Kong dismissed fears it would harm foreign investors and lashed out at “meddling” countries.
Campaigners have called for protests on Sunday.
What is in the statement?
The statement was drafted by former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind and former Hong Kong Governor Christopher Patten, and signed by 186 policymakers and politicians from 23 countries.
It describes Beijing’s plans as a “flagrant breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, under which Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
The signatories wrote: “If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters.”
They include 17 members of US Congress, among them Senator Ted Cruz as well as Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who is the most senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Marco Rubio, who is acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee.
Democratic Representatives to sign include Adam Schiff, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, and Eliot Engel, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Some 44 UK MPs, including chair of the foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat, and eight members of the House of Lords also signed.
Relations between the two Beining and Washington are already strained over trade disputes and the coronavirus pandemic.
The US is currently considering whether to extend Hong Kong’s preferential investment and trading and privileges. US President Donald Trump has also weighed in, saying the US would react strongly if the law went through – without giving details.
Why does Beijing want to bring in the law?
Hong Kong is an economic powerhouse and a semi-autonomus region. It was required to introduce such a law after the handover from British control to Chinese rule in 1997. But its unpopularity means it has never been done – the government tried in 2003 but had to back down after 500,000 people took to the streets.
Hong Kong was rocked by months of protests last year, sparked by a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
Now the Chinese government argues the new security law in Hong Kong is necessary to “prevent, stop and punish” such protests in the future.
China may also fear September’s elections ho Hong Kong legislature. If last year’s success for pro-democracy parties in district elections is repeated, it will be a big headache for China, and government bills could potentially be blocked.
What is in the proposed law?
The proposed new security law in Hong Kong includes an article that says Hong Kong “must improve” national security.
“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,” the proposed law added.
That means China could potentially have its own law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong, alongside its own.
On Thursday, NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui said: “National security is the bedrock underpinning a country’s stability. Safeguarding national security serves the fundamental interests of all Chinese people, including our HK compatriots.”
Describing Hong Kong as an inseparable part of China, he said it is “highly necessary” for the NPC to exercise its constitutional power to deliberate such a proposal, adding that further details would be revealed Friday.
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.
The NPC is expected to vote on the draft law on 28 May. It will then be forwarded to China’s top legislature, NPC’s Standing Committee, which is expected to finalise and enact the law by the end of June.