24 May Australia, UK, and Canada rebuke China over Hong Kong
Nick Bonyhady – The Sunday Age – Sunday 24 May 2020
Australia, Canada and Britain have joined together to criticise the Chinese government’s move to impose restrictive national security laws on Hong Kong in response to long-running prodemocracy protests in the territory.
The three Commonwealth countries warned the Chinese Communist Party’s planned laws forbidding treason, secession, sedition and subversion against the Central People’s Government in Beijing would “clearly undermine” Hong Kong’s autonomy and its citizens’ civil liberties.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang annnounced the planned “enforcement mechanisms” in a speech to the country’s ceremonial legislature last week, saying China would respect the “one country, two systems” principle that gives Hong Kongers significant control over their own affairs.
But in a statement yesterday Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs Francois-Philippe Champagne said they were deeply concerned China had decided to overrule the territory’s legislature.
“Making such a law on Hong Kong’s behalf, without the direct participation of its people, legislature or judiciary, would clearly undermine the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, under which Hong Kong is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy,” the statement read.
They pointed to the legally binding joint declaration signed between China and Britain when the former colonial power handed over the territory in 1997, which gave Hong Kong a “high degree of autonomy” for 50 years.
“It also provides that rights and freedoms, including those of the person, of the press, of assembly, of association and others, will be ensured by law in Hong Kong, and that the provisions of the two United Nations covenants on human rights … shall remain in force,” the foreign ministers said.
Last year pro-democracy legislators and protesters prevented Hong Kong’s own legislature from passing other national security laws.
Liberal Senator James Paterson, who has been critical of the Chinese government, said the proposed laws would be the end of “one country, two systems” and were a test of whether the Communist Party’s word “can ever be trusted again”.
Liberal member for Goldstein, Tim Wilson, said Beijing’s move was a “page from the highly centralised authoritarian playbook” but that the group of Commonwealth countries had shown courage by speaking out.
“Now we need other freedom-loving countries to do the same,” Mr Wilson said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it would be the “death knell” for Hong Kong’s autonomy and that the US stood with its people.