China Warns U.S., U.K. to Stop Criticism of New Hong Kong Law
(Bloomberg) -- China on Thursday warned of strong countermeasures if the U.S., Australia and the U.K. continued taking actions in response to Beijing’s tough national security law in Hong Kong, saying foreign pressure would “never succeed.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said China “deplores and firmly opposes” the U.S. House of Representatives’ unanimous passing of a bill on Wednesday that would level sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials involved in clamping down on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. Hundreds more were arrested Wednesday during demonstrations against the law, which came into effect on Tuesday.
“The U.S. attempt to obstruct this law is doomed to fail,” Zhao said at a regular briefing in Beijing. “We urge the U.S. side to grasp the situation, abide by the basic norms of international law and international relations, stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and advancing or implementing this negative bill. Otherwise we will take strong countermeasures and they have to bear all the consequences.”
China’s move to impose the security law risks reshaping the financial hub’s character 23 years after Beijing took control of the former British colony. The law’s vague language generated confusion about what activities were allowed, adding uncertainty for some businesses that have operations in Hong Kong in part because of its independent British-inspired legal system.
The U.K. has offered to upgrade the status of British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong to offer a path to citizenship. Some 350,000 residents hold BNO passports and another 2.5 million of the city’s 7.5 million people are eligible for them.
“China strongly condemns that and reserves the right to make further reactions,” Zhao said, adding that all BNO passport holders were Chinese citizens. “All the consequences shall be borne by the U.K. side.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Wednesday that the new law flouted the 1984 treaty between the U.K. and China, which laid out the “one country, two systems” principle that underpins Hong Kong’s autonomy. When the U.K. first made the proposal earlier this year, China accused it of meddling in internal affairs.
“Before Hong Kong’s return to China, the British side clearly promised that they would not grant residence permits to the BNO holders,” Zhao said. Now the U.K. “obstinately changed its policy and introduced a new route for residence permits and citizenship for regular people in grave violation of its own promise, international law and basic norms governing international relations.”
The British government acknowledged it was powerless to stop China blocking Hong Kong residents from leaving.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Thursday that his cabinet was “very actively” considering offering citizens safe haven, but didn’t provide further details. Zhao urged Australia to “stop moving further down the wrong path.”
Chinese officials on Wednesday described the law as a “sword of Damocles” hanging over the heads of its most strident critics. Its provisions, sketched out in 35 pages, went beyond what was expected by democracy advocates and even pro-Beijing politicians, raising fears among Hong Kong’s residents over what impact it will have on free speech and political activities, including the ability to protest.
Despite the opposition, Zhao defended the legislation, calling it “a burglar proof door for Hong Kong.”
“We’re sure it will help getting Hong Kong back on the track where it is properly named the Pearl of the Orient,” he said. “We have every confidence in this.”
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