The governments of the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Australia in a joint statement on Thursday condemned China’s move to exert more control over Hong Kong, calling it a threat to the international community’s relations with the territory.
The statement comes in opposition to Beijing moving forward on passing its “national security law,” legislation that would criminalize acts of “secession, subversion and terrorism” against the central government.
But critics say the broad nature of the bill is likely to stifle any dissent against China’s central government and is aimed at cracking down on protests in Hong Kong that have pushed back on Beijing exercising more control over the semi-autonomous territory.
The draft legislation advanced to China’s senior leadership on Thursday with overwhelming support and is expected to become law in the coming weeks and see implementation in September.
The four governments on Thursday criticized Beijing’s plans to impose the legislation on Hong Kong outside the realm of the city’s own independent legislature, saying it violates the “one country, two systems” policy established in the United Nations and implemented with the transfer of power from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
“Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous,” the four governments wrote in the statement.
“China’s decision to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
The Basic Law is Hong Kong’s constitution and provides guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Article 23 allows for an independent legislature, but it is ultimately under the discretion of the Chinese central government in Beijing.
The four governments also warned Beijing’s actions risk undermining the global response to the novel coronavirus pandemic by undermining trust in governments and international cooperation.
“The world’s focus on a global pandemic requires enhanced trust in governments and international cooperation. Beijing's unprecedented move risks having the opposite effect,” the statement read.
The joint statement follows the announcement by Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoNo time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Psaki: Sexism contributes to some criticism of Harris Mnuchin, Pompeo mulled plan to remove Trump after Jan. 6: book MORE on Wednesday notifying Congress that the U.S. can no longer view Hong Kong as autonomous from China, which afforded the territory separate treatment under American law.
It remains to be seen how the declaration affects U.S. relations with the territory.
President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE is expected to impose specific actions, which can take the form of visa and economic sanctions or encouraging American businesses to abandon the territory, David Stilwell, the assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs at the State Department, told reporters.