Friday, 05 June, 2020

Pompeo: China measure a 'death knell' for Hong Kong autonomy

Protesters holding banners in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators attend a rally against the Chinese government’s newly announced national security legislation for Hong Kong at Taipei main train station in Taiwan China introduces new security bill in parliament to tighten controls over Hong Kong
Deanna Wagner | 24 May, 2020, 00:23

Almost 200 political figures from around the world on Saturday decried Beijing's proposed national security laws for Hong Kong, including 17 U.S. Congress members, as global tensions grow over the proposal to set up Chinese government intelligence bases in the territory.

Chris Patten, the last governor of the former British colony, said China has betrayed the people of Hong Kong and the West should stop kowtowing to Beijing for an illusory great pot of gold.

"This is the largest nuclear weapon the Chinese Communist Party has used in its mutual destruction of Hong Kong", said Jimmy Sham (岑子杰), convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized the rally that started last year's unrest. The Liaison Office responded that the restriction didn't apply because the Basic Law was approved by the National People's Congress and the parliament had created the agencies to oversee Hong Kong. And given Taiwan's relations with the USA (even if they are not "official") China militarily invading Taiwan remains a remote possibility - notwithstanding Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's latest Taiwan report dropping references to peaceful reunification.

One of the articles proposed by the NPC would open Hong Kong's doors for Beijing to increase its presence by allowing the establishment of agencies "to fulfill relevant duties to safeguard national security in accordance with the law", when needed.

"I was not surprised but still it is shocking", says Hong Kong lawmaker Claudia Mo of Hong Kong First, answering emailed questions by RFI.

United States lawmakers are pressing for tough action over Hong Kong, which has become the latest front in soaring tensions between Washington and Beijing, but even some supporters of the territory's democracy movement ask if the "nuclear option" would be effective.

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Pictures and footage show opposition legislators holding signboards that read "CCP tramples on Hong Kong legislature" and "Hong Kong will become Xinjiang" before some of them got dragged away. While article 18 of the Basic Law gives the NPC's Standing Committee powers to add laws to Annex III, the laws must undergo either legislation or promulgation. But China's latest move is likely to trigger another round of popular protest against Beijing's rule.

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"There is a growing list of disagreements (Hong Kong being but the most recent) but no strategic rationale for the relationship or plan to limit friction". Hong Kong's wealth and freedom were always an implicit repudiation of the Communist Party's aspirations. Those early protests were over a now-withdrawn extradition law to China proposed by the Hong Kong government, but widespread protests continued over broader grievances.

"Making such a law on Hong Kong's behalf, without the direct participation of its people, legislature or judiciary, would clearly undermine the principle of "One Country, Two Systems", under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy", the ministers said.

The Hong Kong branch of China's foreign ministry said the provisions were necessary to ensure social stability and would affect "very few" people. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has described it as a "death knell" for the city's autonomy. "Of course Hong Kong's legislative body will still exercise its function, but I expect more national security regulations from the central government in the future". "This is the end of Hong Kong".

What does this mean for "One country, Two systems"?