US State Secretary Mike Pompeo said that China’s proposed national security legislation would a “death knell” to Beijing promise of higher autonomy for Hong Kong. The National People’s Congress presented a bill aimed at “establishing and improving” the legal system of Hong Kong to “safeguard national security”.
The new plan has been introduced owing to months of violent protests in Hong Kong which left the semi-autonomous region in a turmoil. Wang Chen, Vice Chairman of China's NPC, had said during the session that the recent protests and violence in the territory challenged the bottom line of the ‘One Country, Two Systems' principle and threatened national sovereignty, security and development interests. He said that strong measures have to be taken according to the law to prevent, stop and punish such actors.
Calling the move “unilateral and arbitrary”, Pompeo condemned the decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong. The top US diplomat said that China bypassed Hong Kong’s well-established legislative processes and ignore the will of the people. He added that Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of liberty under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
“The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its international obligations, and respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy,” said the State Secretary.
The Conservative leader highlighted that democratic institutions and civil liberties are key to preserving its special status under US law. He warned China that any decision impinging on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms as guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration would inevitably impact US' assessment of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and the status of the territory.
“We stand with the people of Hong Kong,” he added.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong's executive leader Carrie Lam has promised on May 22 to fully cooperate with China over a national security law. Lam reportedly said she believes that the law was aimed at “effectively preventing and curbing actions that seriously endanger national security”.
(with inputs from agencies)