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Hong Kong: US passes sanctions as nations condemn new law

The US House of Representatives passed new sanctions related to Hong Kong after Beijing imposed a security law that has been condemned by countries around the world.

The measure, unanimously approved, penalizes banks negotiating with Chinese authorities.

He will have to pass the Senate before going to President Trump.

Critics say China’s law puts an end to freedoms guaranteed for 50 years when British rule ended in 1997.

“The law is a brutal and comprehensive repression against the people of Hong Kong, aimed at destroying the freedoms that have been promised,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the passage of the law was a “clear and serious violation” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration.

According to that statement, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997, with certain freedoms guaranteed for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement.

The UK offered up to three million Hong Kong residency and then citizenship.

But on Thursday, China threatened “corresponding measures” to block the citizenship plan.

“If the British side makes unilateral changes in the relevant practice, it will violate its own position and commitments, as well as international law and basic standards,” said the Chinese embassy in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, a 24-year-old Hong Kong man – suspected of stabbing a policeman during Wednesday’s protests – was arrested on a plane while trying to escape to London.

The suspect, known only as Mr. Wong, was arrested on the plane moments before he left.

China said the security law is necessary to stop the type of protests seen in Hong Kong for much of 2019.

And despite the condemnation in the West, more than 50 countries, led by Cuba, supported China at the UN this week.

What does U.S. law say?

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act imposes sanctions on banks that deal with Chinese officials involved in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Pelosi said the law is an “urgently needed response to [China’s approval] of his so-called” national security “law … … which was created with the aim of dismantling democratic freedoms in Hong Kong”.

Before the signing of the project, the United States had already begun to eliminate Hong Kong’s special status – interrupting defense exports and restricting the territory’s access to high-tech products.

Last year, the United States also signed the Human Rights and Democracy Act, supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

What did other countries say?

The UK said it would offer three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle there and finally apply for full British citizenship.

Australia is also “actively considering” the offer of refuge for Hong Kong residents – with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying there were proposals that “will soon be considered by the cabinet”.

Meanwhile, a senior Taiwan official said his citizens must now avoid unnecessary traffic or visits to Hong Kong.

Chiu Chui-Cheng, deputy head of Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, said the new security law was “the most outrageous in history”. Taiwan’s de facto consulate in Hong Kong will continue to operate, he said.

Japan was among the other countries that spoke out against the law, calling it “regrettable”.

“This will undermine confidence in the ‘one country, two systems’ principle,” said Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi.

European Council President Charles Michel said he “deplored” the law, which he said had a “detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law”.

And Canada moved its travel advice to Hong Kong, saying the new law “increased the risk of arbitrary detention for reasons of national security and possible extradition to mainland China”.

Yesterday, a senior Chinese official reacted to foreign critics, saying Hong Kong’s affairs were “none of his business”.

Were all countries critical?

No. At the United Nations this week, Cuba – on behalf of 53 countries – has embraced the law.

Speaking at the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, he stated: “Non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states is an essential principle enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

“We believe that every country has the right to safeguard its national security through legislation and we commend the relevant measures taken to that end.”

How has the new law been used so far?

A police flag warning protesters against the new law
Source: BBC

Just hours after the law was passed, Hong Kong police made their first arrests.

Ten people were accused of violating the new law, including a man with a pro-independence flag. About 360 others were arrested at a banned rally.

Under the new law, inciting hatred for China’s central government and Hong Kong’s regional government are offensive.

Acts, including damaging public transport facilities – which used to happen during the 2019 protests – can be considered terrorism.

News Reporter

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