US condemns China's actions as 'death knell' for Hong Kong

US condemns China's actions as 'death knell' for Hong Kong

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoFired State Department watchdog says Pompeo aide attempted to 'bully' him over investigations Ousted watchdog says he told top State aides about Pompeo probe 7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports MORE on Friday condemned China’s push for legislation allowing it to exercise more control over Hong Kong, saying such a move would be a “death knell” for the territory’s autonomy from Beijing.

The Chinese government is expected next week to pass a “national security law” for Hong Kong that provides sweeping authority to Chinese officials to crack down in the territory on acts of “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” against Beijing.

Pompeo on Friday condemned the National People’s Congress, the parliament of the People’s Republic of China, for its proposal to “unilaterally and arbitrarily impose the national security legislation on Hong Kong.”

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“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 for Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-filed agreement.”

The U.S. has warned that such actions by China are a threat to the one country, two systems policy that has allowed Hong Kong to operate independently since the territory was transferred from British rule to Beijing in 1997.

Pompeo has earlier said the U.S. is considering certifying Hong Kong as having “a high degree of autonomy from China” if Beijing moves ahead with the law, undermining how the U.S. views China’s authority over the territory.

“The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its international obligations, and respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law,” Pompeo said on Friday.

“Any decision impinging on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms as guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law would inevitably impact our assessment of One Country, Two Systems and the status of the territory.”

Beijing’s “national security law” is seen as a response to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests that began in June last year and were sparked by proposed legislation that would have allowed people to be extradited to mainland China for criminal offenses.

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Protesters decried the law as undermining Hong Kong’s independent judicial system and rolling back free speech, and protests swelled against it.

While the proposed extradition law was withdrawn, protests have continued and Beijing has sought to impose more authority on the semi-autonomous territory.

Pompeo on Friday aligned the U.S. with the protests. “We stand with the people of Hong Kong,” he said.

The secretary’s strong words come as U.S. and Chinese relations are at one of its lowest points.

Tensions between the two countries are high over the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic and Washington’s push for Beijing to be held accountable. COVID-19 first broke out in China, and the U.S has argued that Beijing could have done more to prevent its spread.