Blinken condemns Hong Kong electoral law changes

Blinken condemns Hong Kong electoral law changes
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Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenWHO looks to revive probe into COVID-19 origins: report Defense policy bill would require 'forever chemical' testing at military sites Biden criticizes treatment of Haitians as 'embarrassment' MORE on Thursday criticized the Chinese government for further restricting democratic freedoms in Hong Kong in response to Beijing’s new measures limiting the territory’s political representation.

“The Chinese government continues to undermine the democratic institutions of Hong Kong, denying Hong Kong residents the rights that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) itself has guaranteed,” the secretary said in a statement.

Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday passed a measure reducing the number of members who can be elected directly by Hong Kong residents — from 35 to 20 — and increasing the number of Beijing-approved candidates, according to The Associated Press.

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Forty of the 90 seats in Hong Kong’s legislature will be elected by a largely pro-Beijing committee, the AP reported.

Blinken, in his statement, said the changes to Hong Kong’s legislature “severely constrains people in Hong Kong from meaningfully participating in their own governance and having their voices heard.”

The secretary added that the electoral change “defies” Hong Kong’s Basic Law, legislation enacted in 1997 with the British handover of Hong Kong to Beijing that enshrines the “one China, two systems” policy.

The Basic Law guarantees universal suffrage for Hong Kong residents and has provided the territory relatively democratic independence from Beijing for nearly a quarter century.

Blinken called on the People’s Republic of China and Hong Kong Authorities to “allow the voices of all Hong Kongers to be heard.”

The secretary also called for authorities to drop charges on individuals charged under the controversial National Security Law, a Beijing-based law that criminalized vague charges of “separatism, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference” but is criticized as suppressing any dissent.

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The arrests included at least four pro-democracy legislators. A contingent of their colleagues resigned last year en masse in protest, and Hong Kong's legislative body has since faced little opposition when passing pro-Beijing reforms. 

“The United States stands united with our allies and partners in speaking out for the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed to the people in Hong Kong by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law,” Blinken said.

The statements from the U.S. are likely to further strain relations between Washington and Beijing, with the Biden administration seeking to prevent China’s ambitions for global dominance.

Beijing routinely rejects any criticism from the international community as interfering in China’s domestic affairs.