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

Members of the Democratic Party hold banner and placards during a protest

Hong Kong's pro-democracy lawmakers sharply criticized China's move to enact national security legislation in the semiautonomous territory, saying it goes against the "one country, two systems" framework that promises the city freedoms not found on the mainland.

For two decades, Beijing has been frustrated by widespread popular opposition to national security laws that were thwarted by mass protests in Hong Kong during an initial push in 2003.

Following China's decision to introduce a national security law to crush dissent in Hong Kong, Sunflower Movement leader Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) on Friday (May 22) proposed to form an worldwide humanitarian team to support the former British territory's democracy activists.

A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry's office of the commissioner to Hong Kong said in a statement Pompeo's actions can not scare the Chinese people and that Beijing will safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests.

Mr Pompeo's intervention is likely to infuriate the Chinese government, whose relations with the USA have been strained recently by disputes over trade and the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong - the largest pro-establishment group in Hong Kong - said it welcomes and fully supports the proposal.

The Government also wants to prohibit foreign political organisations or bodies from conducting political activities in Hong Kong or having links with overseas bodies.

By including foreign interference under national security, the law could also curb global lobbying by pro-democracy activists.

What seems certain is Hong Kong will continue its transformation into a financial center for Chinese companies to raise funds and do business globally. The Chinese government argues the law is necessary to "prevent, stop and punish" such protests in the future.

Hong Kong is treated separately from mainland China's more managed economy, and its exports to the United States are treated differently.

Why is the law so controversial?

USA businesses oppose any change in Washington's recognition of Hong Kong as a sufficiently autonomous city, where major US companies enjoy access to China and Southeast Asia, and where bilateral trade flourishes across various parts of the economy, from wine to financial services.

"For many in Hong Kong, the NPC enacting for Hong Kong will be tantamount to the effective end of the "one country, two systems" model, " Tsang said.

The practice of "one country, two systems" has achieved unprecedented success in Hong Kong, according to an explanatory document delivered by Wang, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The State Department said 85,000 US citizens lived in Hong Kong in 2018.

President Trump has also weighed in, saying the USA would react strongly if it went through - without giving details.

Beijing tried to introduce a similar law in 2003 but shelved the initiative due to mass protests.

It consists of an introduction and seven articles.

The Hong Kong national security legislation is set to be approved at the annual meeting of the National People's Congress in Beijing this week, where top Chinese Communist Party officials meet to rubber stamp political and economic policy decided by leaders. This year, under cover of COVID, there've been a wave of arrests of prominent lawmakers and activists, more protesters being jailed.

And with the USA unlikely to respond in any physical way other than to verbally condemn the actions, "For those in Taiwan counting on the U.S.to defend them, Xi wants this law to make them think twice", Hass said.

"Treason, sedition and subversion" are all open to a very wide interpretation. "I find it hard to believe this will not trigger either a massive peaceful and orderly demonstration or more vocal and aggressive protests or, indeed, most probably, a combination of both". That too could encompass wide-ranging acts and activities that the authoritarian rulers on the mainland consider far more menacing than those in Hong Kong, or for that matter elsewhere. President Trump should invoke that law if the Chinese measures take hold, as it will be clear that Hong Kong no longer has a genuinely separate system to protect.

Why is China doing this?

The introduction of the bill came after Hong Kong was embroiled in prolonged riots a year ago as the city's opposition attempted to create a "color revolution". Hong Kong has a zero tariff rate on imports of US goods, which also could be at risk.

If last year's success for pro-democracy parties in district elections is repeated, government bills could potentially be blocked. "It is a complete dishonor of promises made under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, as well as all the promises made by the Chinese government to us and the world", she said, referring to the deal that saw Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 from colonial power Britain. This is against the Basic Law, no doubt about it.

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