China Protests Japan’s Push For a G-7 Statement on Hong Kong
Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister. (Photographer: Kim Kyung-Hoon /Reuters/Bloomberg)

China Protests Japan’s Push For a G-7 Statement on Hong Kong

(Bloomberg) -- China lodged a protest with Japan after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he wanted to set the course for a Group of Seven nations statement on Hong Kong over national security legislation that’s raised worries about the city’s future autonomy.

“China has expressed grave concerns to the Japanese side,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters at a briefing in Beijing Wednesday, repeating China’s stance that the legislation was an internal matter. “Relevant countries should abide by international laws and basic rules in international relations.”

Abe’s government has repeatedly expressed concern about China’s plan to enact the sweeping legislation in Hong Kong, which many see as eroding the “one country, two systems” framework that underpins the administration of the former British colony. The legislation has reignited demonstrations in the city, following months of pro-democracy protests last year triggered by opposition to a since-scrapped bill that would have allowed extraditions to the mainland.

“I would like Japan to take the lead within the G-7, based on the idea that a statement should be issued,” Abe told a parliamentary committee Wednesday.

Abe has been treading an increasingly narrow path amid a deepening standoff between China -- Japan’s biggest trade partner -- and the U.S., its sole military ally. Ties between the U.S. and China turned sour over trade, and have worsened in recent months over the coronavirus pandemic and Beijing’s handling of Hong Kong.

The Japanese prime minister said in parliament that the G-7 remained significant even after the establishment of the G-20 because its members share the “universal values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.”

U.S. President Donald Trump last month postponed the G-7 summit to the autumn, and proposed inviting the leaders of Russia, South Korea, Australia and India, alongside the usual participants. Abe, who has worked hard to build a rapport with Trump, has said he plans to attend the summit if it’s held in person, even if that could mean he is forced to quarantine afterward.

Rising Tensions

Tensions are also growing between China and other members of the G-7, including the U.K., where lawmakers are asking questions about whether Huawei Technologies Co. should supply equipment for Britain’s 5G network.

Abe said this week that Japan was not in a position to set dates for a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was postponed from April as both countries struggled to control the virus. The occasion had been meant to mark a return to normal for the often-fraught relationship between the two countries.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told the same parliamentary committee that Japan did not have China in mind as it considers loosening its border controls. Priority will be given to countries including Vietnam and New Zealand, where new cases have fallen to zero, he said.

Germany, France, Italy, the U.K. and Canada make up the G-7 alongside Japan and the U.S.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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