China accused the US of taking the UN hostage on Friday over a controversial security law for Hong Kong and warned Western nations to stay out of its internal affairs. Recent developments have shown that China is angry at the UN ‘interfering’ in its internal matter.
The US, Britain, Canada and Australia led criticism of the planned law, which would punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and acts that endanger national security, as well as allow Chinese security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong.
What is the controversial Hong Kong law?
China’s rubber-stamp parliament recently approved plans for the law, which followed seven months of huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.
The law will “guard against, stop and punish any separatism, subversion of the national regime, terrorist group activities and such behaviours that seriously harm national security”.
It would authorise Chinese lawmakers to directly enact long-delayed Hong Kong security legislation itself at a future date, rather than leaving it up to the territory’s administration.
China made clear it wanted the legislation passed after Hong Kong was rocked by seven months of massive and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests last year. The protests, which originated due to a proposed Chinese law that would have criminals arrested in Hong Kong tried in China, was seen by the citizens of Hong Kong as a move on Hong Kong’s democracy, caused a huge tumult in the financial system of Hong Kong. Many global companies headquartered in Hong Kong saw their shares slip amid the political instability.
Law to undermine One Country, Two Systems policy
After China fended off initial American efforts this week to have the controversy put on the agenda of the United Nations Security Council, the US and Britain succeeded in securing an informal discussion about it for Friday, diplomatic sources told AFP.
Beijing’s proposed security law “lies in direct conflict” with China’s international obligations to guarantee certain freedoms in Hong Kong, the four countries said in a joint statement.
“The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework,” they added, referring to Hong Kong’s special status within China under the terms of its handover from Britain in 1997.
Respect our sovereignty, move is ‘totally unreasonable’: China angry at UN
Beijing said Friday it had lodged official protests to the four countries.
“We urge the related countries to respect China’s sovereignty (and) stop interfering in Hong Kong’s and China’s internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press briefing.
He also slammed the US approach as “totally unreasonable” and said China would not allow the US to “kidnap the Council for its own purposes.”
“We urge the US to immediately stop this senseless political manipulation,” Zhao said.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also said London would widen its rules around the rights of British National (Overseas) passport holders — a status offered to many Hong Kongers at the time of handover — if China went ahead with the new law.
Zhao warned that Beijing reserves the right to take “corresponding countermeasures”.
Stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs: Chinese envoy to UN
Zhang Jun, China’s permanent representative to the United Nations, on Friday urged the United States and the United Kingdom to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, immediately stop practices of hegemony and power politics, and mind their own business, rather than provoking tension and making trouble everywhere.
Zhang refuted the fallacy on Hong Kong made by the United States, Britain and some other countries, saying China opposes and completely rejects the baseless remarks made by the United States and Britain.
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said in a statement that the United States and Britain should “mind their own business,” adding that “any attempt to use Hong Kong to interfere in China’s internal matters is doomed to fail."https://t.co/NWCHNVU9vL
— Global National (@GlobalNational) May 29, 2020
“The United States and the United Kingdom, for their own political purposes, have been making unwarranted comments, interfering and obstructing, and attempted to push for an open video conference in the UN Security Council. China expressed strong opposition, and the vast majority of the Council members did not support the U.S. proposal, believing that the Hong Kong-related issues were China’s internal affairs and had nothing to do with the mandates of the Security Council. The Security Council rejected the unreasonable request of the U.S., and its attempt failed,” said a press release issued by the Chinese Mission to the United Nations.
Needless to say, these new developments are indicative of the growing friction between the United States and China, and also hint at how the two countries are now poles apart in terms of their views. The fact that China is angry at UN over Hong Kong is also an indicator of China’s impatience with its One Country Two Systems approach, and its desire to unite all of China under one flag.
US revokes Special Status of Hong Kong: a revival of Trade War on the cards?
Trump said he would order his Administration to “revoke preferential treatment for Hong Kong as a special customs and travel territory from the rest of China” and asked said he was ask Treasury to sanction Chinese government and some Hong Kong officials directly or indirectly involved in the “eroding of Hong Kong’s freedoms. Our actions will be strong and meaningful.”
Trump called it a violation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law, a constitution that was part of the British handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. That Basic Law expires in 2047.
“It diminishes the city’s long standing status,” he said. “It’s a tragedy for Hong Kongers. China extends its reach of its state security apparatus into Hong Kong” with this law, once passed, he said, adding that the U.S. wants an open, transparent relationship with China but would defend its national interests and values.
The Chinese parliament’s vote came just hours after Washington revoked the special status conferred on Hong Kong, paving the way for the territory to be stripped of trading and economic privileges.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the status had been withdrawn because China was no longer honouring its handover agreement with Britain to allow Hong Kong a high level of autonomy. Earlier, he had certified to Congress that Hong Kong no longer enjoys a high degree of autonomy from China, which set in motion the process of cutting off ties with Hong Kong.
President Donald Trump also announced he would hold a press conference about China, with Hong Kong and other flashpoint issues — including the coronavirus, espionage and trade — almost certain to be brought up.
“We’re not happy with China,” Trump told reporters on Thursday.
New law in line with ‘fundamental interests’ of the people: China
China has remained defiant in the face of Western criticism on Hong Kong, insisting “foreign forces” are to blame for fuelling the pro-democracy movement and creating turmoil in the city of 7.5 million people.
Li Zhanshu — chairman of the NPC Standing Committee which will now draft the law — said Thursday the move was “in line with the fundamental interests of all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots”. Thus, China is angry at UN and all nations who support the law which it believes would be beneficial for the Chinese people.
Under the “one country, two systems” model agreed before the city’s return from Britain to China, Hong Kong is supposed to be guaranteed certain liberties until 2047 that are denied to those on the mainland.
The mini-constitution that has governed Hong Kong’s affairs since the handover obliges the territory’s authorities to enact national security laws.
But huge protests blocked an effort to do so in 2003, and Hong Kong’s government then shelved it while watching the pro-democracy movement grow.
China’s state-run media on Friday said the law was in the interests of protecting peace and autonomy in Hong Kong.
“Safeguarding national security is a must, rather than a choice,” the official news agency Xinhua in a commentary.
Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily said in an editorial that law would only target “a small minority of people who are suspected of committing crimes that endanger national security.”
In Hong Kong, the pro-democracy movement voiced the opposite sentiments.
“It’s the end of Hong Kong,” opposition lawmaker Claudia Mo told AFP.
“They are cutting off our souls, taking away the values which we’ve always embraced — values like human rights, democracy, rule of law.”
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk