Top foreign policy officials for the U.S., U.K., Australia and Canada issued a joint statement Thursday, condemning China for its plans to extend strict national security controls over the city of Hong Kong, once viewed as semi-autonomous.
The statement was signed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne. The chief foreign policy officers for the four countries warned that China’s move to impose security measures, while bypassing Hong Kong’s own legislative institutions, would “dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy.”
The full statement reads:
Signatories to this statement reiterate our deep concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose a national security law in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and long-standing stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.
China’s decision to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework. It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people – including those set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
We are also extremely concerned that this action will exacerbate the existing deep divisions in Hong Kong society; the law does nothing to build mutual understanding and foster reconciliation within Hong Kong. Rebuilding trust across Hong Kong society by allowing the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights and freedoms they were promised can be the only way back from the tensions and unrest that the territory has seen over the last year.
The world’s focus on a global pandemic requires enhanced trust in governments and international cooperation. Beijing’s unprecedented move risks having the opposite effect.
As Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity are jeopardized by the new imposition, we call on the Government of China to work with the Hong Kong SAR Government and the people of Hong Kong to find a mutually acceptable accommodation that will honor China’s international obligations under the UN-filed Sino-British Joint Declaration.
The statement came after China’s legislature approved a proposal to extend law enforcement powers over the city allowing authorities to strictly enforce broadly defined acts of “sedition,” “subversion,” “succession” and “terrorism.” It is not yet known what specific measures will follow, though lawmakers may now begin drafting the the legislation. There are concerns the new legislation will curtail individual freedoms in the city, including speech.
On Thursday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also tweeted concern about Hong Kong’s autonomy from mainland China.
“We all agree in the EU: The high degree of autonomy Hong Kong must not be undermined,” a translated version of Maas’ tweet reads. “The citizens there enjoy the freedoms and rights that are granted to them by the Basic Law and the principle ‘one country, two systems.’ We expect that to be respected.”