After clashes broke out in Hong Kong’s legislature second time this week over pro-Beijing lawmaker being elected as the chair of a key committee, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said on May 20 that the situation in the former British colony is being ‘closely watched’. In a press conference, Pompeo said that the treatment of pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong has increased the challenges to the autonomous status of the city from China, which is also an essential requirement to be fulfilled under the US law for Hong Kong to retain its economic treatment. The US Secretary of State also noted that the annual report on the city’s autonomy has still not been received by the Congress.
.@SecPompeo: Our decision on whether or not to certify Hong Kong as having “a high degree of autonomy” from China is still pending. We’re closely watching what’s going on there. pic.twitter.com/LvznuvbGaO— Department of State (@StateDept) May 21, 2020
On May 18, the clashes in the Hong Kong legislature had broken out for the second time as the pro-China lawmaker would chair the committee that analysis and scrutinises city’s legislations along with deciding when the lawmakers would vote on the bills. The committee was without a chairperson for more than six months and the deputy chairperson and pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok were criticised by the Chinese government for delaying the matter leading to backlogs of bills that affected the public’s interest.
Furthermore, at least 15 pro-democracy leaders in Hong Kong had made court appearances related to their role in the frequent violent protests in the city that had rocked its stability for most of 2019. These leaders facing charges in the city include ‘father of democracy’ in Hong Kong Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai.
“Leading Hong Kong activists like Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai were hauled into court. Actions like these make it more difficult to assess that Hong Kong remains highly autonomous from mainland China,” Pompeo said.
US Secretary of State had recently threatened Beijing against interfering with the world of American journalists in Hong Kong. Further intensifying the already strain US-China relations, Pompeo had said that decisions endangering the city’s autonomy would impact the US assessment of the status of the territory.
“Any decision impinging on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms as guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law would inevitably impact our assessment of One Country, Two Systems and the status of the territory,” said Pompeo.