Fri, Dec 05, 2014 - Page 1 News List

US questions China’s pledges to Hong Kong

Bloomberg and AFP, Washington and BEIJING

The US Department of State’s top official for Asian affairs on Wednesday questioned whether China would keep its promises to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy amid street protests demanding open elections.

“We are concerned by signs that China’s commitment to the ‘one country, two systems’ model, as well as to maintaining a high degree of autonomy, are eroding,” US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel told a Senate subcommittee that questioned the willingness of the administration of US President Barack Obama to prod Beijing.

Protesters have occupied the streets of Hong Kong for the past two months after China declared that candidates for the first chief executive election in 2017 must be nominated by a committee rather than voters.

The clashes have forced the Obama administration to navigate between defending democracy and managing relations with China, as the US tries to deliver on its promised strategic and economic “rebalance” toward Asia.

“The United States strongly supports ‘one country, two systems,’” Russel said, referring to the constitutional formula devised by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) that allows some Chinese territories, such as Hong Kong, to retain their capitalist economic systems and domestic autonomy.

Russel also called for “competitive” elections in the territory.

“The legitimacy of Hong Kong’s chief executive will be greatly enhanced if the promise of universal suffrage is fulfilled,” he said.

“This means allowing for a competitive election in which a range of candidates with differing policy approaches are given an opportunity to seek the support of eligible Hong Kong voters,” he added.

The Democratic chairman and top Republican lawmaker on the US Senate Subcommittee for East Asian and Pacific Affairs both expressed displeasure with China and said the Obama administration was not doing enough to defend the former British colony’s rights.

“It appears very clear to us China is influencing the implementation of universal suffrage in a way that’s inconsistent with the commitment they gave to respect international covenants, civil and political rights,” Democratic Senator and subcommittee chairman Ben Cardin said.

The panel’s ranking Republican, US Senator Marco Rubio, said: “It is clear that our response to the democratic aspirations of people on the mainland or anywhere else when it comes to China are muted by real political, realpolitik considerations.”

In Beijing, the Chinese government yesterday reiterated that foreign countries should not stoke trouble in Hong Kong following Russel’s comments.

“Hong Kong affairs belong to China’s domestic affairs,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) said at a regular briefing, stressing that Beijing is opposed to any outside interference.

“We have repeatedly expounded on our solemn position on some foreign individuals’ and forces’ attempts to interfere in Hong Kong’s affairs or even incite or support illegal activities such as Occupy Central,” she said.

Hua said that Hong Kong’s continued stability and prosperity were in the interests of both China and other countries.

“We hope that relevant countries will match words with deeds, honor their commitment and do more to promote the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong,” she said.

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