Hong Kong's 'romantic fusion of East and West' is evaporating, says China's US envoy

Mr Cui Tiankai wrote that Hong Kong was "a romantic fusion of the East and the West". PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - China's ambassador to the United States wrote in a Bloomberg Opinion editorial that the central government has the ultimate responsibility for upholding national security in Hong Kong, and that a proposed legislation for the city "will protect law-abiding citizens".

Mr Cui Tiankai, China's US ambassador, wrote on Saturday (May 30) that Hong Kong was "a romantic fusion of the East and the West".

"To our regret, such romance is evaporating," the envoy wrote. The violent actions of protesters against police, citizens and property there had crossed "a red line" for Beijing, he said.

"Hong Kong is in disarray. China's national security is at risk. That is why the central government has chosen to act."

Separately, the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's Communist Party, wrote that the plans outlined by US President Donald Trump at the White House on Friday (May 29) were a "gross interference" in Beijing's affairs and were "doomed to fail".

In a second commentary published on Sunday on its front page, the newspaper accused the US and Western politicians of "double standards" and "shameless hegemony" for their criticism of the legislation.

It said China would be firm in responding to any US moves, without specifying what actions Beijing might take, and that the proposed legislation is a rightful move to defend China's sovereignty and compatible with international practice.


Meanwhile, Hong Kong's government said on Saturday evening that actions threatened by US President Donald Trump are "unjustified" and that China is within its "legitimate rights" to pursue new national security laws that Beijing says will help quell months of social unrest in the semi-autonomous city.

Hong Kong has been roiled by protests, some of them violent, since last year as demonstrators sought full democracy and police accountability, demands which remain unmet.

The US' plans as a result of Beijing's crackdown on the island would include stripping Hong Kong of some of its privileged trade status, and come as tensions simmer between the world's two biggest economies over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and how the Trump administration characterises China's role in its spread.

Officials from Hong Kong wrote in a 949-word statement that they're "not unduly worried" about the sanctions and trade restrictions proposed by Mr Trump.

Hong Kong will continue to rely on rule of law, judicial independence, and a free and open trade policy, according to the statement.

Officials defended the actions of China's legislature, which this week approved a plan to draft legislation that China has called essential to national security, and which Hong Kong democracy advocates have said will curb freedom of speech and undermine an independent judiciary.

Those actions, on top of relations fraught by the pandemic, led Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to decertify the former British colony's autonomy under US law. Mr Trump vowed "strong" and "meaningful" actions while providing few specifics.


The proposed legislation "does not give rise to fears of the loss of liberties by its people that will warrant international debate or interference by another country" and such fears are "simply fallacious", the Hong Kong government said in its statement.

"We note with deep regret that President Trump and his administration continue to smear and demonise the legitimate rights and duty of our sovereign to safeguard national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region which in turn is aimed at restoring stability to Hong Kong society," the statement said.

The coronavirus pandemic had, until recently, kept protesters at home; larger demonstrations have returned in the past week as people fought controversial legislation to criminalise disrespect toward China's national anthem and Beijing's efforts to impose the new security law on the territory, which has had relative autonomy since being returned to China by Britain in 1997.

China's legislature on Thursday approved a proposal for sweeping new national security laws for Hong Kong, but it could take Chinese officials months to sort out details of laws banning subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference.

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