In a sharp response to Britain’s report criticizing China’s imposition of national security legislation, the Hong Kong government said that the report is “inaccurate and biased” and that the legislation will not curb the freedoms of anyone.
The British government said the proposed security law was a clear violation of China’s international obligations and a breach of the “one country, two systems” formula that has governed the former British colony since its handover to Chinese rule in 1997.
“There is still time for China to reconsider, to step back from the brink and respect Hong Kong’s autonomy and respect its own international obligations,” British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab wrote in the foreword to his government’s six-monthly report on Hong Kong.
Raab said a solution to the unrest fomented by a year of frequently violent rallies in the city “must come from Hong Kong, and cannot be imposed from mainland China”.
However, the Hong Kong government said it firmly opposed the report’s “inaccurate and biased remarks on the national security law and the high degree of autonomy enjoyed by (Hong Kong)”.
“Any allegation that the law will undermine Hong Kong people’s freedoms and ‘one country, two systems’ is no more than alarmist speculation and simply fallacious,” the Hong Kong government said in a statement.
Legislating on national security was within the purview of Beijing, it added, and the law would help better protect the rights of Hong Kong people while restoring stability in the financial centre.
The exchange over the security legislation, which is expected to be implemented by September, came as Hong Kong marked the anniversary of a major demonstration that saw a turning point in the city’s protest movement.
On Jun 12 last year, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets as protesters rallied in the heart of the business district against a proposed Bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.
While the Bill was withdrawn in September, the protest movement evolved into broader appeals for democracy in the city amid fears Beijing was reneging on its pledge to give Hong Kongers freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland.
Britain has been joined by the United States, Australia and Canada in criticizing the proposed security laws.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo singled out HSBC as one of the major companies back the law, saying such “corporate kowtows” got little in return from Beijing and criticizing the Chinese Communist Party’s “coercive bullying tactics”.