China yesterday faced growing international pressure over its move to impose security legislation on Hong Kong that critics say will destroy the territory’s autonomy, with the US and Britain placing the issue before the UN Security Council.
The US, Britain, Canada and Australia led criticism of the bill, which would punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and acts that endanger national security, as well as allow Chinese security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong.
China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) on Thursday approved the plans for the legislation, which followed seven months of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.
After China fended off initial US efforts this week to have the controversy put on the agenda of the UN Security Council, the US and Britain succeeded in securing an informal discussion about it, diplomatic sources told reporters.
Beijing’s proposed security law “lies in direct conflict” with China’s international obligations to guarantee certain freedoms in Hong Kong, the two countries said in a joint statement with Canada and Australia on Thursday.
“The proposed law would undermine the one country, two systems framework,” they said, referring to Hong Kong’s special status within China under the terms of its handover from Britain in 1997.
British Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab said that the UK would widen its rules around the rights of British National (Overseas) passport holders — a status offered to many Hong Kongers at the time of handover — if China went ahead with the legislation.
The Chinese vote came just hours after Washington revoked the special status conferred on Hong Kong, paving the way for the territory to be stripped of trading and economic privileges.
US President Donald Trump said he was to hold a news conference yesterday about China.
“We’ll be announcing tomorrow [yesterday] what we’re doing with respect to China,” Trump told reporters on Thursday.
“We’re not happy with China,” he said.
NPC Standing Committee Chairman Li Zhanshu (栗戰書) said that the legislation was “in line with the fundamental interests of all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots,”
“For [Hong Kong residents], safeguarding national security is a must, rather than a choice,” the Xinhua news agency said in a commentary.
In Hong Kong, the pro-democracy movement voiced the opposite sentiments.
“It’s the end of Hong Kong,” Hong Kong Legislator Claudia Mo (毛孟靜) told reporters. “They are cutting off our souls, taking away the values which we’ve always embraced, values like human rights, democracy, rule of law.”
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