China accuses US of taking UN hostage over HK

Beijing warns the West to stop interfering in its internal affairs

BEIJING • China yesterday accused the United States of taking the United Nations hostage over a planned security law for Hong Kong, and warned Western nations to stay out of its internal affairs.

The US and Britain planned to informally raise at the UN Security Council yesterday China's plan to impose the new legislation on Hong Kong, diplomats said, a move likely to anger Beijing.

China's Parliament, the National People's Congress (NPC), approved on Thursday a decision to move forward with the legislation that democracy activists, diplomats and some in the business sector fear will erode Hong Kong's autonomy and jeopardise the city's role as a global financial hub.

Britain's UN mission confirmed that London and Washington had notified the 15-member Security Council that they would raise the situation in Hong Kong behind closed doors under "any other business".

The move comes after China, backed by Russia, opposed a US call on Wednesday for a formal open council meeting on Hong Kong, arguing that it was an internal matter and not an issue of international peace and security. The Security Council has been meeting virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The US, Britain, Canada and Australia led criticism of the planned law, which would punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and acts that endanger national security, as well as allow Chinese security agencies to operate openly in Hong Kong.

China's NPC approved the plans for the law, which followed seven months of huge and often violent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year.

Beijing's proposed security law "lies in direct conflict" with China's international obligations to guarantee certain freedoms in Hong Kong, the US and Britain said in a joint statement with Canada and Australia on Thursday.

"The proposed law would undermine the 'one country, two systems' framework," they added, referring to Hong Kong's special status within China under the terms of its handover from Britain in 1997.

Beijing said yesterday it had lodged official protests with the four countries. "We urge the related countries to respect China's sovereignty (and) stop interfering in Hong Kong's and China's internal affairs," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press briefing.

He also slammed the US approach as "totally unreasonable" and said China would not allow the US to "kidnap the council for its own purposes". "We urge the US to immediately stop this senseless political manipulation," Mr Zhao said.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had said London would widen its rules around the rights of British National (Overseas) passport holders - a status offered to many Hong Kongers at the time of handover - if China went ahead with the new law.

Mr Zhao warned that Beijing reserves the right to take "corresponding countermeasures".

China has remained defiant in the face of Western criticism on Hong Kong, insisting "foreign forces" are to blame for fuelling the pro-democracy movement and creating turmoil in the city of 7.5 million people.

The NPC's vote came just hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from Beijing, paving the way for the US to end its special trading status for the city and enact sanctions on officials in Hong Kong and China.

US President Donald Trump yesterday tweeted: "CHINA!" He did not elaborate on it.

He had said earlier he would hold a press conference about China, with Hong Kong and a series of other flashpoint issues almost certain to be brought up. He is poised to sign a measure that would punish Chinese officials for imprisoning more than one million Muslims in internment camps, as he looks to rebuke Beijing over its crackdown in Hong Kong and its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

SEE BUSINESS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2020, with the headline 'China accuses US of taking UN hostage over HK'. Subscribe