Biden condemns Beijing for Hong Kong election law

The Biden administration has stepped up its criticism of Beijing’s crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, calling a new set of Chinese laws a “direct attack” on the territory’s autonomy.

Criticism of the short story ratified law, which dilutes the proportion of democratically elected lawmakers in the Hong Kong legislature, comes just days before the first high-level meeting between Beijing and Washington since the election of Joe Biden.

It was part of a rare bipartisan condemnation from Washington, with Republicans on Capitol Hill joining their Democratic counterparts in taking Beijing to task for the latest in a series of legal changes that have severely undermined most democratic institutions in the city.

“We condemn the continued attack by the People’s Republic of China on democratic institutions in Hong Kong,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday.

Price said the law was intended to “stifle political debate in order to challenge Hong Kong’s clear will and deny their voice in their own governance.”

Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, said Wednesday that the United States will continue to impose sanctions for efforts to “crush” democracy.

Price said Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, “would not fire any punches” on the issue when they met their Chinese counterparts in Alaska at the end of next week.

The election law was ratified after China passed a draconian national security measure which paved the way for a broad crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. The laws underscore how Beijing’s interventionist approach to the territory has sidelined the role of Hong Kong’s local government.

Carrie Lam, the city’s leader, said she was unable to answer some questions about the latest law because it was in the hands of the central government, saying: “I haven’t the details”. She denied that it was about making the Hong Kong legislature less critical of the executive government or “rejecting” the opposition.

But Sophie Richardson, director of China at Human Rights Watch, said it puts “an issue at the heart” of democracy in Hong Kong and called for action. “You have heard the Biden administration say that it stands with the people of Hong Kong,” she said. “It’s an important statement to make, but it needs to be turned into visible policy.”

Republicans were among the most vocal critics of the Chinese decision on Thursday. Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida, said that “China’s unprovoked aggression and repression in Hong Kong must receive a serious response from the United States and our allies.”

He urged the White House to use the sanctions and other tools outlined in Hong Kong’s Human Rights and Democracy Law, passed last year, to punish China.

Republican Ben Sasse, senator from Nebraska and possible 2024 presidential candidate, said the law was another example of President Xi Jinping’s attempt to “kill self-government” in the Asian financial hub.

Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that “China’s puppet legislature [had] destroys the legitimacy of future elections in Hong Kong ”.

He urged Blinken to warn Beijing that he “would not get away with crushing Hong Kong’s freedom and democracy” next week. Meet in Alaska.

Congressional Democrats also stacked up. Bob Menendez, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the United States and its partners should impose costs on China.

“Beijing’s latest initiative to crush Hong Kong’s autonomy is a clear call to the international community,” Menendez tweeted. “We have to.. Make China face real consequences.”

Dominic Raab, British Foreign Secretary, said London would review the law for possible violations of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which spelled out Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms after British rule. He said it was “Beijing’s last step in creating space for democratic debate in Hong Kong.”

Yang Yirui, the top Chinese foreign ministry official in Hong Kong, summoned foreign diplomats this week and warned of retaliation.

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