Police stand guard on a road to deter pro-democracy protesters from blocking roads in the Mong Kok district of Hong Kong on May 27, 2020.
Isaac Lawrence | AFP | Getty Images
China on Thursday approved a controversial proposal to impose a national security law for Hong Kong, reigniting concerns over the financial hub’s diminishing freedoms.
The law will effectively bypass Hong Kong’s legislature, and raises concerns over whether it is a breach of the Chinese city’s autonomy, which was promised under the “one country, two systems” principle.
It comes after months of pro-democracy protests, which sometimes spiraled into chaos and violence, that have rocked Hong Kong and devastated key sectors in its economy, including tourism and retail.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, is a special administrative region of China. Under the “one country, two systems” framework, the city is given some freedoms that citizens in the mainland do not have. That includes self-governing power, limited election rights, and a largely separate legal and economic framework from mainland China.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has said the decision to implement the law was “designed for steady implementation of ‘one country, two systems’ and Hong Kong’s long-term prosperity and stability.”
But critics of the law say it violates that policy and promise of freedom to the Hong Kong people.
Prior to the approval of the bill, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Hong Kong was no longer highly independent from China.
Here’s what other leaders around the world say about China’s move to pass the bill.
Joint response from U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, Canada
In a joint statement, the four countries expressed their “deep concern” regarding Beijing’s proposed law.
“Hong Kong has flourished as a bastion of freedom. The international community has a significant and long-standing stake in Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability,” it said.
“Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties.” The Basic Law is Hong Kong’s mini constitution.
The move will “dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous,” they added.
The joint statement pointed out that the law “will exacerbate the existing deep divisions in Hong Kong society” and “does nothing to build mutual understanding and foster reconciliation within Hong Kong.”
“Rebuilding trust across Hong Kong society by allowing the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights and freedoms they were promised can be the only way back from the tensions and unrest that the territory has seen over the last year,” they added.
Separately, U.K.’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the country could offer “a path to citizenship” for British National (overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong, according to a BBC report. Those passport holders, who number around 300,000 in Hong Kong, can visit Britain for up to six months without a visa.
“Hong Kong’s autonomy must not be undermined,” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said in a statement, adding that it was an opinion shared by the European Union. “The citizens of Hong Kong enjoy freedoms and rights, that are afforded to them through the Basic Law and on the principle ‘one country, two systems’. We expect that law and order to be upheld.”
“The principle ‘one country, two systems’ and law and order are the base for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity. Even the security law must not question these principles,” he added.
“Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly as well as the democratic debate in Hong Kong have to be respected in the future.”
Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-wen pledged support for Hong Kong immediately after Beijing proposed the law last week. She said Taiwan “stands with the people of Hong Kong,” and pledged “necessary assistance” to those who need help.
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory and considers the self-ruled island as a Chinese province, that must be united with the mainland, by force if necessary. The Chinese Communist Party has never governed Taiwan.
In a tweet after the bill was approved, Tsai said she has moved to create a “humanitarian assistance action plan” for Hong Kong citizens, some of whom have already emigrated to Taiwan amid the uncertainty.
Even before the bill was passed, Japan’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying: “Japan is seriously concerned” about China’s decision toward Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong is an extremely important partner for Japan with which Japan maintains close economic ties and people-to-people exchanges,” the ministry said. “It is the long-standing policy of Japan to attach great importance to upholding a free and open system which Hong Kong has been enjoying and the democratic and stable development of Hong Kong under the ‘One Country Two System’ framework.”
The statement added that Japan has conveyed such views to China and “will continue to carefully observe developments surrounding Hong Kong.”
— CNBC’s Yen Nee Lee and Huileng Tan contributed to this report.