Economy

Joint Statement from the UK, Australia and Canada on Hong Kong

Joint Statement from the UK, Australia and Canada on Hong Kong”

The National People's Congress, delayed for about two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, got under way in Beijing on Friday.

"The United States condemns the. proposal to unilaterally and arbitrarily impose national security legislation on Hong Kong", Pompeo said in a statement.

INSKEEP: What's in this legislative proposal?

FENG: We were only able to see a brief proposal for what this law might contain a few hours ago, and so far, it looks like it will criminalize four big buckets of behavior - secession, subversion of state power, foreign interference and terrorism. These are really general terms that could be applied widely to everyone from protesters to politicians, even universities and media outlets.

It followed repeated warnings from China's communist leaders they would no longer tolerate dissent in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous city that endured seven months of massive pro-democracy protests previous year.

Pro-democracy activists fear the law will be used to muzzle protests in defiance of the freedoms enshrined in the Basic Law, as similar laws in China are used to silence opposition to the Communist Party. They shouted "National security law ruins Hong Kong!" Expect protests in Hong Kong.

INSKEEP: OK. So does this mean that Hong Kong essentially doesn't have the partial autonomy that it has had since becoming part of China again in the 1990s? Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said, "if this move takes place, "one country, two systems" will be officially erased". Some have described the proposed anti-sedition law as a "mark of desperation" after nearly a year of not being able to halt the protests.

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"Efforts must be made at the state level to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for [Hong Kong] to safeguard national security, to change the long-term "defenseless" status in the field of national security", Wang said.

"This is nearly like a nuclear option, which once you use it, everyone will get hurt, and it will be very hard to build Hong Kong back up again", Kwok told the conservative Heritage Foundation by videoconference.

"The values underlying the criminal justice system in two jurisdictions are so different that any criminal law should only be enacted by HK and not by the Mainland", he says. "The decision to bypass Hong Kong's well-established legislative processes and ignore the will of the people of Hong Kong would be a death knell for the high degree of autonomy Beijing promised".

Hong Kong's main stock market index tumbled the most in nearly five years after Beijing's plan was revealed. This year, under cover of COVID, there've been a wave of arrests of prominent lawmakers and activists, more protesters being jailed.

INSKEEP: Is there any popular support in Hong Kong for Beijing taking a firmer hand there? This time, Beijing's taking no chances. "Beijing is afraid that the Hong Kong legislature may be controlled by democrats after elections in September, so they want to set a unsafe precedent of allowing Beijing to legislate for Hong Kong", he said at a Heritage Foundation webinar.

The draft law was submitted at the annual National People's Congress, which rubber-stamps decisions already taken by the Communist leadership. The new legislation will require Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) to pass legislation "as soon as possible", although it does not specify a time-frame. China's legislature is expected to vote on authorizing a smaller group of lawmakers to draft and pass the actual text of the law on Thursday. Conversely, for Hong Kong citizens, if they could prosper without direct Chinese rule, why not go all the way and become a Western-style democracy like Taiwan - culturally Chinese with a Western-style political economy? It also provides that rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of the press, of assembly, of association and others, will be ensured by law in Hong Kong, and that the provisions of the two United Nations covenants on human rights (the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) shall remain in force. Thank you very much.



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