China parliament approves HK security law plan

Andrew Cummings
May 28, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday took aim at Beijing's plan to impose a new security law on Hong Kong that could be used to crush pro-democracy protests.

Raab and the foreign ministers of the United States, Canada and Australia said in a joint statement the proposed law "would curtail the Hong Kong people's liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong's autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous". Police fired pepper pellets and made 360 arrests on Wednesday as thousands of people took to the streets in anger over the anthem bill and national security legislation proposed by China that has raised worldwide alarm over freedoms in the city.

Last year, the city was rocked for months by often violent pro-democracy demonstrations over an unsuccessful bid to introduce an extradition law to China.

Hong Kong was handed back to China from British control in 1997, but under a unique agreement - a mini-constitution called the Basic Law and a so-called "one country, two systems" principle. It's meant to operate under that framework until at least 2047.

The United States and China clashed over Hong Kong at the United Nations on Wednesday after Beijing opposed a request by Washington for the Security Council to meet over the national security legislation.

It's expected to take several months to work out details before it is enacted.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Hong Kong no longer qualifies for its special status under U.S. law, unnerving investors anxious about the risk to the Chinese-ruled city's status as a global financial hub.

Although the administration could still waive consequences, the USA law says that Hong Kong would lose the trading advantages, including lower tariffs, that it enjoys with the world's largest economy.

The South China Morning Post had reported earlier in the day that the law could enter into force by August.

"All of the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong people and global investors will remain unchanged", Hong Kong's government said in a statement on Wednesday.

"The law will not affect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents", she said in a statement welcoming the Chinese parliament's vote.

Democracy campaigners in the city were despondent, however.

Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong, told the Guardian he hoped the laws did not spell the end of one country, two systems.

But their relationship has become outright hostile this year with the emergence of a new coronavirus in China, which has now killed 100,000 people in the United States.

Last week's announcement that China would impose the new security law triggered further protests in Hong Kong, although a huge police presence prevented massive gatherings.

"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground", Pompeo said in a statement.

The move came after prolonged social unrest and escalating street violence had plunged Hong Kong into the gravest situation since its return to the motherland in 1997.

The New York Times reported the administration is imposing the same tariffs on Hong Kong exports that it does on goods from mainland China amid a trade war that cooled when the USA and Beijing reached a "Phase One" agreement.

"What is hurting Hong Kong is the way that China has behaved because China is terrified of what Hong Kong stands for, because President Xi and his regime hates liberal democracy", Patten said.

This could lead to Hong Kong being treated the same as mainland China under U.S. law, which would have major implications for its trade hub status.

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