The US on Thursday condemned Chinese moves to change Hong Kong’s electoral system and forecast “difficult” talks with Beijing’s top diplomats next week, while a Chinese official yesterday hit back, pointing to the chaos in January surrounding the US presidential election.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan would not hold back when they meet with Chinese diplomats in Alaska on Thursday and Friday next week, “whether it’s on Taiwan, or ... efforts to push back democracy in Hong Kong, or on concerns we have about the economic relationship,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
“Addressing the genocide against Uighur Muslims is something that will be a topic of discussion with the Chinese directly next week,” she added.
China rejects US charges that it has committed genocide against Uighurs and other Muslims in its Xinjiang region and calls criticism of its behavior toward Hong Kong and Taiwan unwarranted interference in its internal affairs.
China’s parliament on Thursday approved a draft decision to change Hong Kong’s electoral system, further reducing democratic representation in the territory’s institutions and introducing a mechanism to vet politicians’ loyalty to Beijing.
US Department of State spokesman Ned Price called the changes “a direct attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy, its freedoms and democratic processes.”
“There will be some difficult conversations I would expect,” he said, referring to the talks Blinken and Sullivan plan to hold in Anchorage with Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) and Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅), the first high-level, in-person contacts between the two countries under US President Joe Biden’s administration.
Washington would explore areas for cooperation with China where it was in the US interest, including climate change, Price said, calling on Beijing to change if it wanted to improve the frayed relationship.
“We’re not looking to engage in talks for the sake of talks,” he said.
“We are looking for Beijing ... to demonstrate that seriousness of purpose, to demonstrate that it seeks to live up to its own oft-stated desire to change the tone of the bilateral relationship,” he added.
Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Deputy Director Zhang Xiaoming (張曉明) said that semi-autonomous Hong Kong is an internal Chinese issue that no foreign country has the right to interfere in.
“I don’t know that after the storming of the US Capitol on Jan. 6, how the US has such moral capital to point fingers at the election institutions of Hong Kong,” he said.
A statement from Blinken condemned what it called China’s “continuing assault on democratic institutions in Hong Kong.”
“These actions deny Hong Kongers a voice in its own governance by limiting political participation, reducing democratic representation and stifling political debate,” it said.
Zhang said the changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system were like a “minimally invasive surgery.”
“The distinctive features of minimally invasive surgery are small wounds, deep penetration and quicker recovery,” he said, adding that Hong Kong residents would be able to live and work more peacefully as a result.
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