The US, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand have accused China of contravening its legally binding international commitments by ousting pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
The foreign ministers of the five allies said that Beijing has gone against its 1984 promise to preserve autonomy in the territory after it was handed back to China in 1997.
The removal of four opposition lawmakers triggered the en masse resignation of their remaining colleagues, the latest move in a deepening crackdown against Beijing’s critics following last year’s huge and often violent democracy protests.
“China’s action is a clear breach of its international obligations under the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the nations said in a statement, reiterating individual remarks.
The foreign ministers said that the latest move appeared to be part of a “concerted campaign to silence all critical voices” in Hong Kong.
“For the sake of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, it is essential that China and the Hong Kong authorities respect the channels for the people of Hong Kong to express their legitimate concerns and opinions,” said the alliance, known collectively as the “Five Eyes.”
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) yesterday hit back against the accusation, calling it a “blatant violation of international law” and saying that “any attempt to exert pressure on China ... is doomed to fail.”
“No matter if they have five or 10 eyes, if they dare to damage China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, they should beware of being blinded,” Zhao said.
China’s leaders deny breaching their pre-handover promises and have said that Western powers have no right to interfere in how Hong Kong is run.
Only half of the legislature’s seats are elected by popular vote, a mechanism designed to ensure a permanent pro-Beijing majority.
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