U.S. and China Trade Barbs in Tense UN Meeting Over Hong Kong

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(Bloomberg) -- The U.S. and China traded accusations in a closed United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss Beijing’s increasing pressure and control over Hong Kong, underscoring growing tensions between the two powers.

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft called China a repressive country that limits its people’s freedom. China and Russia’s envoys hit back, accusing the U.S. of meddling in other nations’ internal affairs. According to diplomats who watched the informal meeting, they also cited protests erupting in U.S. cities over the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after he was handcuffed on the ground while police knelt on his neck and back.

The UN meeting called by the U.S. and U.K. comes as President Donald Trump prepared to hold a news conference scheduled for 2 p.m. EST to discuss China after officials in Beijing approved a resolution that Hong Kong democracy advocates say will lead to restrictions on freedom of speech and undermine the city’s independent judiciary.

“This legislation risks curtailing the freedoms that China has undertaken to uphold as a matter of international law,” U.K. Ambassador Jonathan Allen said in a statement after the UN meeting. “We hope the Chinese government will pause and reflect on the serious and legitimate concerns this proposal has raised both within Hong Kong and around the world.”

China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun urged “the US and the U.K. to immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, immediately stop practices of hegemonism and power politics, and mind their own business, rather than provoking tensions and making troubles everywhere,” the Chinese Mission to the UN said in a statement after the meeting.

While the U.S. and China have been clashing at the UN for years, tensions between the world’s two largest economies have escalated in recent months, fueled by accusations from Trump that China was slow to disclose the peril of the coronavirus. Trump has threatened consequences for China over its handling of the pandemic and more recently its steps to assert more control over Hong Kong.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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