HK crisis: China pledges to ‘support’ territory’s police as US warned not to interfere

30-May-2020 Intellasia | The Guardian | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Hardening of positions comes after international outcry over China’s parliament voting to proceed with controversial national security laws

China’s public security ministry has pledged to “guide and support” the Hong Kong police force after parliament in Beijing approved a decision to impose a new national security law on the semi-autonomous territory.

The move came as the Hong Kong government warned Washington to stay out of internal affairs and said withdrawing its special US status, which has underpinned the city as a global financial hub, could be a “double-edged sword”.

On Thursday, China’s rubber stamp parliament voted to move forward with a controversial national security law, which would outlaw subversion and foreign interference in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong: the end of one country, two systems?

The new legislation is also expected to enable Beijing to establish intelligence agencies in Hong Kong, including a domestic intelligence agency potentially involving the ministry of public security (MPS) and the Ministry of State Security, China’s main intelligence agency.

Late on Thursday, the MPS said it would use “all efforts to guide and support the Hong Kong police to stop violence and restore order”. Hong Kong’s police force is independent from China and the MPS has no enforcement powers in the former British colony.

The national security vote triggered international condemnation and fears the law could erode the city’s freedoms. Protests for Friday were called in response to the vote. Later on Friday US President Donald Trump was due to announce his response.

The former British colony enjoys a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” formula since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

“Any sanctions are a double-edged sword that will not only harm the interests of Hong Kong but also significantly those of the US,” the city’s government said late on Thursday.

It added that from 2009 to 2018, the US trade surplus with Hong Kong was the biggest among all its trading partners, totalling $297bn of merchandise and 1,300 US firms are based in the city.

The plan has ignited the first big protests in Hong Kong for months, as thousands of people took to the streets this week, prompting police to fire pepper pellets in the heart of the city’s financial district to disperse crowds.

The US Department of State said in a report on Thursday it could “no longer certify that Hong Kong continues to warrant (differential) treatment” from Beijing.

Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow warned that Hong Kong, which has enjoyed special privileges under US law based on its high degree of autonomy from Beijing, may now need to be treated like China on trade and other financial matters.

In a separate statement on Friday, published in several local newspapers, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam urged “fellow citizens” to “join hands to pursue our dreams while putting aside our differences”.

She said the legislation was needed because of a “terrorist threat” and because organisations advocating “independence and self-determination” have challenged the authority of Beijing and local governments and pleaded for foreign interference.

The five demands of last-year’s pro-democracy protest movement included universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into police handling of the protests, but not independence. A minority of protesters waved “Hong Kong independence” flags.

China has said that it will not tolerate calls for independence, which Beijing has called its “red line”.

The security legislation, along with a bill to criminalise disrespect for China’s national anthem, are seen by protesters as the latest attempt by Beijing to tighten its control on the city.

The security legislation, expected to be enacted before September, was condemned also by Britain, Australia, Canada and others. Britain said it will give greater visa rights to British national overseas passport-holders from Hong Kong unless China suspends its plans.

On Friday, Chinese state media lauded the passage of the decision in the NPC. In an editorial in Xinhua news agency said: “Safeguarding national security means safeguarding the ‘one country, two systems’.”

The editorial, defending China’s right to institute the law, warned all anti-China forces in Hong Kong “immediately stop illegal and criminal acts” that endanger national security. “Do not continue misjudging the situation and never underestimate the Chinese government and the will of the Chinese people.”

The People’s Daily calling the NPC approval of the plan the “resolute expression of 1.4 billion Chinese people”. “It sends a strong signal.. to anti-China forces in Hong Kong desperately fighting like a cornered wild beast: Your defeat has already been decided.”

Amid the deepening row over Hong Kong’s status, Beijing on Friday warned it would use all means to prevent pro-independence forces separating Taiwan from China.

Li Zhanshu, the head of China’s parliament, said non-peaceful action against the Chinese-claimed island would be a last resort.


Category: China

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