World leaders condemn China's Hong Kong security law

24 May 2020, 07:59

Police fired tear gas at protestors
Police fired tear gas at protestors. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Nearly 200 senior political figures from around the world have condemned China's planned new security law in Hong Kong.

Countries including the UK, Australia and Canada have said they are "deeply concerned" by China's proposed national security legislation for Hong Kong which could undermine the one country, two systems principle.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and his counterparts in Australia and Canada warned Beijing that imposing the law without the city's say would undermine the framework that gives Hong Kong freedom not seen on the mainland.

Hong Kong's pro-democracy politicians were highly critical of a bill submitted on Friday on the opening of China's legislative session that would forbid secessionist and subversive activity and foreign interference.

The move comes after months of pro-democracy demonstrations which at times descended into violence between police and protesters.

Protestors lined the streets in Hong Kong
Protestors lined the streets in Hong Kong. Picture: PA

In a joint statement, Mr Raab, Australian foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and Canadian foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said: "We are deeply concerned at proposals for introducing legislation related to national security in Hong Kong.

"The legally binding joint declaration, signed by China and the UK, sets out that Hong Kong will have a high degree of autonomy.

"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 Prime Minister's official spokesman earlier had said that officials were closely monitoring the situation and working to clarify if the plan breached the framework.

Former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten has urged the PM and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to make clear to China its proposal is "outrageous" and accused Beijing of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic.

"They've used that preoccupation in order to bully and harass in other areas, and one of them is in Hong Kong," the Tory peer said.

Carrie Lam has spoken in support of the law
Carrie Lam has spoken in support of the law. Picture: PA

However, protests erupted in Hong Kong on Sunday, as hundreds took to the streets in a popular shopping district on Sunday to march against China's proposed tough national security legislation for the city.

Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas at protestors.

Pro-democracy supporters in Hong Kong have sharply criticised China's proposal to enact a national security law that would ban secessionist and subversive activity, as well as foreign interference and terrorism in the semi-autonomous territory.

Critics say it goes against the "one country, two systems" framework that promises the city freedoms not found on the mainland.

On Sunday afternoon, crowds of protesters dressed in black gathered in Causeway Bay, a popular shopping district, to protest against the proposed legislation.

Protesters chanted slogans "Stand with Hong Kong", "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Revolution of our times".

Prominent activitist Tam Tak-chi was arrested during the protests for what police said was an unauthorised assembly.

Mr Tam said he was giving a "health talk" and was exempt from social-distancing measures that prohibit gatherings of more than eight people.

The protests come two days after the proposed bill was submitted on Friday, the opening day of China's national legislative session.

Sunday's rallies are a continuation of a months-long pro-democracy movement that began last year and has at times descended into violence between police and protesters.

The new law, expected to be passed on May 28, would bypass the city's legislature and allow the Hong Kong government to set up mainland agencies in the city, sparking fears that this would allow Chinese agents to arbitrarily arrest people for activities deemed to be pro-democracy.