China’s Actions Toward Hong Kong Cause Concern, Protests
Last week, China introduced legislation to safeguard national security in Hong Kong in reaction to last year’s protests, which lasted six months before health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic effectively quieted public displays of unrest.
China’s legislative body, the National People’s Congress, meets once a year for one week. The legislation was introduced Friday and is scheduled for a vote at the end of the session on Thursday.
Governments around the world raised major concerns about the legislation. Reuters quotes European Council President Charles Michel as saying, “We attach great importance to the preservation of Hong Kong’s high decree of autonomy in line with Basic Law and international commitments.” European Union foreign ministers are expected to discuss the issue Friday. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters, “It is going to be important for the Chinese government to engage in constructive conversations with citizens of Hong Kong to ensure we de-escalate the tensions and we look forward to a path that actually allows for prosperity in a way that the citizens of Hong Kong expect.” And United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the legislation would “be the death knell for the high degree of autonomy” Hong Kong currently has in its relationship with China under the one country, two systems principle.
Reacting to Pompeo’s statement, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi noted increasingly inflammatory rhetoric from the United States, which he said was “pushing our two countries toward a new Cold War.”
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam tried to allay concerns about the national security measures, saying they would not restrict the freedoms the region enjoys; however, she gave no specifics on the legislation or how freedoms would be protected.
In addition, Bloomberg reported on a briefing held by the commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, who said, “The legislation will not change the one country, two systems policy, Hong Kong’s capitalist system, high degree of autonomy, nor will it change the legal system in Hong Kong SAR, or affect the independent judicial power.” The official did not provide any supporting details or explain what the legislation encompassed.
Hong Kong police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse thousands of people who rallied to protest against Beijing's plan to impose national security laws on the city. More photos: https://t.co/oTXOelX3hI 📷 Tyrone Siu pic.twitter.com/RM8mV2j6RG— Reuters Pictures (@reuterspictures) May 24, 2020
China’s announcement came at the end of week that had seen increased political tension in Hong Kong. Pro-democracy lawmakers in Hong Kong were removed from Hong Kong’s legislative chamber when they protested actions the legislature was taking to hasten passage of a bill that would criminalize disrespecting the Chinese national anthem.
Public protests erupted once again over the weekend, which police using tear gas and water cannons to subdue thousands of protestors in a shopping district. Protestors had been planning to rally in opposition to the national anthem law on Wednesday.