The governments of the US, Australia, Canada and Britain issued a joint statement Thursday reaffirming “their deep concern about Beijing’s decision to enact national security laws in Hong Kong,” after the Chinese parliament, the National People’s Congress passed laws Thursday which could severely limit democratic freedom.
The new law, which was enacted without the approval of Hong Kong’s elected Legislative Council, will prohibit activities such as “dividing the country, subverting state power” as well as foreign interference in Hong Kong, according to the Nikkei Asian Review.
Pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong say that the law violates judicial independence approved by China when negotiating the 1997 territorial surrender with Britain, which had guaranteed that Hong Kong would operate under capitalist and democratic principles until at least 2047.
“Hong Kong has developed as a stronghold of freedom,” the statement said. “Immediate imposition of national security law in Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong institutions themselves … will limit the freedom of the people of Hong Kong and dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that makes it so prosperous.
The four countries also objected to the action as “in direct conflict with their international obligations based on the principles of the legally binding and registered United Nations-British Joint Declaration” made in 1984, which paved the way for 1997 Hong Kong’s migration. Kong to China.
“This also increases the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and weakens existing commitments to protect the rights of the people of Hong Kong – including those stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” the statement continued.
China’s move to enact the new law comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Wednesday’s declaration that Hong Kong “is no longer autonomous with China.” The Secretary is required by law 2019 to annually verify Hong Kong’s independence, with the same law – the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act – which states that “Hong Kong must remain autonomous enough from the People’s Republic of China to justify” the treatment specifically different from those given to mainland China.
Hong Kong is currently the beneficiary of many privileges not granted to China, including visa-free travel between the US and Hong Kong, lower tariffs and mandate access to US dollars. While the Trump Administration has not said whether to revoke one of these privileges, do it can have a significant impact on the Hong Kong economy and U.S. company with regional headquarters there.
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