Hong Kongers gather on May 24 to protest China's new security law.
FPI / May 25, 2020
Police fired tear gas and water cannon at thousands of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators who gathered on Sunday to protest China's new security law which bans what the communist regime terms “treason, secession, sedition [and] subversion” in Hong Kong.
As the demonstrators and police were facing off, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi insisted in Beijing that the proposed law must be imposed “without the slightest delay.”
The new security law was described by former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten as a “comprehensive assault” on the city's rights and freedoms and by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a “death knell” for Hong Kong's autonomy.
The law also allows Chinese security forces to set up outposts in Hong Kong and authorities in the city have made it clear they will use their new powers to crack down on pro-democracy demonstrations.
On Thursday, the regime of supreme leader Xi Jinping said it was asserting control over Hong Kong through "improvement" of its governance.
"We will ensure the long-term stability of 'one country, two systems,' " Wang Yang, head of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said at the opening of the annual meeting of China's top political advisory body.
The draft law was submitted at the annual National People's Congress (NPC), which largely rubber-stamps decisions already taken by the communist leadership in Beijing.
"I'm speechless," said Dennis Kwok, a pro-democracy lawmaker. Kwok was singled out for criticism by Beijing and was recently removed from his chairmanship of a key legislative council committee. "This is a complete and total surprise and I think it means the end of one country, two systems."
Kwok said that the Hong Kong government and Beijing had used the coronavirus pandemic as cover to crack down on Hong Kong.
"When the world is not watching they are killing Hong Kong, killing one country, two systems, and using social distancing rules to keep people from coming out to protest," Kwok said. "This is the most devastating thing to happen to Hong Kong since the handover."
Pompeo said the decision to bypass Hong Kong's lawmakers ignores "the will of the people".
"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, democratic institutions, and civil liberties," Pompeo said in a statement on Friday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry, through its office of the commissioner to Hong Kong, said that Pompeo was "blackmailing" the Hong Kong government and accused him of "blatant interference" in China's internal affairs. It also took aim at Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, for placing "unjustifiable pressure on China's central government."
Rubio said in a statement: "Congress provided the U.S. government with powerful tools when it passed my bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and the administration should use this law to hold Beijing accountable for its interference in Hong Kong’s internal affairs and violations of the Sino-British Joint Declaration. It is in the interest of the United States to respond swiftly to Beijing’s repeated attacks on Hong Kongers, their autonomy, and their basic rights."
Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, announced he will introduce a resolution condemning China’s proposed “sweeping national security law.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said: "Certain U.S. politicians are repeatedly carping on about [Hong Kong's] legislative and judiciary branches in a vain attempt to glorify and exculpate the rioters who oppose China and seek to stir up trouble in Hong Kong. They just don't want to see Hong Kong heal its divides and get back on track: Their sinister motives are thoroughly exposed, and their 'black hands' are bared for all to see."
On Sunday, riot police were deployed after demonstrators ignored earlier warnings from authorities against unauthorized assembly amid the city’s coronavirus-linked law banning public gatherings of more than eight people.
“People may be criminalized only for words they say or publish opposing the government,” 25-year-old protester Vincent told AFP.
“I think Hong Kongers are very frustrated because we didn’t expect this to come so fast and so rough. But… we won’t be as naive as to believe that Beijing will simply sit back and do nothing. Things will only get worse here.”
Free Press International