China summons US envoy, warns of 'firm counter measures' after Trump signs Bill supporting Hong Kong protesters

Protesters react as police fire tear gas during a protest in Hong Kong on Nov 2, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS
Pro-democracy protesters clashing with the police outside Hong Kong Polytechnic University on Nov 16, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
In a photo taken on Sept 8, 2019, a protester with a US national flag sticking out from her mask takes part in a march from Chater Garden to the US Consulate in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (REUTERS, AFP, AP) - China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday (Nov 28) said it will take "firm counter measures" if the United States continues to interfere in Hong Kong.

"The nature of this is extremely abominable, and harbours absolutely sinister intentions," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement, without specifying what measures Beijing might take.

It said legislation signed by US President Donald Trump on Wednesday backing protesters in Hong Kong was a serious interference in Chinese affairs and US efforts were "doomed to fail".

"The Chinese government is unwavering in its determination to oppose any external forces interfering in Hong Kong affairs, its determination to implement the 'one country, two systems' policy, and its determination to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests," the statement said.

"We advise the United States not to act arbitrarily, or China will resolutely counteract it, and all consequences must be borne by the United States," it said.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned US Ambassador Terry Branstad on Thursday to demand that the United States immediately stop interfering in its internal affairs and stop causing further damage to bilateral relations, the Foreign Ministry said.

The Hong Kong government on Thursday expressed strong opposition to the US legislation, saying the Bills will send the wrong signal to demonstrators.

"The two acts are obviously interfering in Hong Kong's internal affairs," a government official said in a statement, warning the move would "send the wrong message to the protesters".

The Central People's Government Liaison Office in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region also issued a statement, expressing outrage and strongly condemning the signing of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Bill.

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The statement alleged that US Congress and some politicians have "ignored the facts of the serious crimes of radical violence that have continued in Hong Kong for more than five months, and have repeatedly reversed black and white, in the guise of supporting 'human rights' and 'democracy' in Hong Kong".

"This is a gross interference in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs. The essence of this is to disrupt Hong Kong and try to contain China's development with Hong Kong affairs. We express our great indignation and the strongest condemnation of a series of hegemonic acts by the United States," the statement said.

Prominent activist Joshua Wong, who was among Hong Kong pro-democracy supporters who lobbied for the US bills, called it a "remarkable achievement" as human rights had triumphed over crucial US-China trade talks.

He said he hoped it will spur Britain and other Western nations to follow suit. He said he will participate in a parliament hearing in Italy via Skype later Thursday to press for further global support. "Now is the time for the Western world to stand with Hong Kong," Mr Wong said.

Mr Sunny Cheung, a student who testified before Congress in support of the legislation, told AFP it would give "Hong Kong people timely leverage to press Hong Kong and Beijing further on democratic reform".

Hong Kongers have protested in huge numbers over the last six months, fuelled by years of growing fears that authoritarian China is stamping out the city's liberties.

Riot police officers clash with anti-government protesters during a demonstration in Causeway Bay district in Hong Kong on Oct 6, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

The territory's Beijing-backed leaders have offered few concessions and police have cracked down hard on protesters in increasingly violent confrontations.

The violence has done little to dampen support though, with pro-democracy candidates winning a landslide victory in local council elections over the weekend.

Hundreds gathered in Central on Thursday night to celebrate Mr Trump's signing of the Bill, with some participants waving American flags while the crowd shouted slogans like "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong".

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act requires the US President to annually review the city's favourable trade status and threatens to revoke it if the semi-autonomous territory's freedoms are quashed.

Mr Trump also signed legislation banning sales of tear gas, rubber bullets and other equipment used by Hong Kong security forces in putting down the protests.

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