Australian MPs condemn crackdown

Australian MPs condemn crackdown

Eryk Bagshaw, James Massola – Sydney Morning Herald – Friday 13 November 2020

HONG KONG DEMOCRACY Australian MPs have accused Beijing of hammering another nail in the coffin of Hong Kong democracy after China disqualified four Hong Kong legislators from parliament.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the move undermined what was left of the city’s democratic processes and institutions, as the remaining members of the opposition resigned in protest.

A cross-party group of Australian MPs went further, declaring the move the effective end of the “one country, two systems” agreement struck when Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997.

Under directions from Beijing, the Hong Kong government on Wednesday announced the four opposition assembly members would be disqualified over allegations they threatened national security, colluded with foreign forces and advocated for independence.

The move triggered an opposition press conference late on Wednesday night in which all 19 members of the opposition announced they would resign, leaving Hong Kong with a rubber stamp legislature and no opposing voices for the first time since the Legislative Council was established in 1843.

Senator Payne called on authorities to allow the Legislative Council, which is dominated by proBeijing appointees, to fulfil its role as the primary forum for popular political expression in Hong Kong.

“Beijing’s disqualification of duly elected Legislative Council lawmakers seriously undermines Hong Kong’s democratic processes and institutions, as well as the high degree of autonomy set out in the Basic Law and Sino-British Joint Declaration,” she said.

The Chinese embassy said yesterday it strongly deplored Senator Payne’s comments. “Those who break the law must be held accountable, which is the basic principle of any law-based society,” a spokesman said.

“No other country has the right to make irresponsible remarks or intervene in the matter.” Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-Wai said on Wednesday the model that guaranteed Hong Kong’s semi-autonomy from the mainland after the British handover in 1997 was finished.

“We can no longer tell the world that we still have one country, two systems. This declares its official death,” he said.

Australian MP Gladys Liu, who was born and grew up in Hong Kong, said she was saddened by the move as it meant “the democracy that I enjoyed is disappearing”.

“For Beijing to disendorse elected members of the Legislative Council, it is actually doing damage to Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

Labor MP Kimberley Kitching, the co-chair of the Australian arm of the International Parliamentary Alliance on China, said the expulsion of the legislators of the legislators was further proof Beijing had no intention of honouring the one country, two systems agreement.

“Australia must be a strong voice in standing up for the international order, and for the democratic values that we in this country hold so dear, as do the people of Hong Kong.”

Liberal MP Tim Wilson said the move demonstrated “there is now as much tolerance for diversity of opinion about governance in Hong Kong as there is in Beijing”.

And Liberal senator James Paterson said the expulsion “validates the well-founded fears of the world about the deeply troubling approach the Chinese Communist Party is taking to Hong Kong”.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Kwok Ka-Ki, Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung, had been disqualified because they breached security laws.

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