‘Shameless’: Beijing accuses U.S. of interference in Hong Kong autonomy dispute

May 28, 2020, 10:40 AM UTC
National People's Congress Chairman Li Zhanshu (bottom C) speaks as Chinese President Xi Jinping (C) and other Chinese leaders look on during the closing session of the National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 28, 2020. - China's rubber-stamp parliament endorsed plans May 28 to impose a national security law on Hong Kong that critics say will destroy the city's autonomy. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson in Hong Kong called U.S. politicians “arrogant, unreasonable, and shameless” for attempting to interfere with China’s “internal affairs” in a Thursday statement released after the National People’s Congress (NPC) approved a sweeping and controversial national security law tailored for Hong Kong.

The statement comes a day after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress that the State Department no longer considers Hong Kong autonomous from mainland China.

“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong,” Pompeo tweeted on Wednesday, before the NPC approved the law.

The foreign ministry statement said its spokesperson “firmly opposed and refuted” Pompeo’s claim that the law threatens Hong Kong’s autonomy.

President Donald Trump said last week that the U.S. would react “very strongly” if Beijing pushed forward with the law, which allows the central government to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and directly impose the legislation that lawmakers in China will craft in the coming weeks.

The spokesperson, a representative of the commissioner’s office of China’s foreign ministry in Hong Kong, said the new law will “secure the long-term stability of ‘one country, two systems,’” the framework separating Hong Kong’s legal, political, and financial infrastructure from that of mainland China.

The legislation has received international pushback for the leeway it seems to provide to crack down on Hong Kong’s autonomy and sparked a new round of protests in the city; last year’s months-long political unrest had quieted during the coronavirus outbreak.

“[The legislation] will not affect the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong [or] the legal rights and freedom of Hong Kong citizens,” the ministry spokesperson said.

Nor will the legislation affect the legal rights of foreign investors in Hong Kong, the spokesperson added.

According to the 1992 U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act, if the U.S. determines that Hong Kong is not sufficiently autonomous from mainland China, it can revoke Hong Kong’s preferential trade and economic privileges.

One worry among some experts is that the political uncertainty and Beijing’s encroachment on Hong Kong’s legal system will discourage foreign investors and companies from doing business in Hong Kong.

China’s top legislative body resoundingly approved the law, which the Hong Kong government is required to implement once lawmakers in China complete the draft. It will come into effect by September.

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