US Says Hong Kong Electoral Changes “Assault Democracy” | Political news
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned China’s approval of sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system, calling the move an “assault on democracy” and a “direct attack” on the autonomy promised for the territory when it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997..
In a statement Thursday, a few hours later Beijing approved its candidate veto plan for a political post in Hong Kong, Blinken said the measures run counter to the goal that elections in Hong Kong “should progress towards universal suffrage.”
The fundamental law of the territory, its mini constitution, includes a promise of a possible universal suffrage.
“These actions deprive Hong Kong people of a voice in their own governance by limiting political participation, reducing democratic representation and stifling political debate,” Blinken said.
He urged the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to allow the already delayed September Legislative Council elections to take place and to “ensure that all candidates are included in a transparent and credible manner.” There are reports that the elections could be postponed again as Hong Kong considers changes to the candidate selection process.
Blinken did not say whether Washington was considering additional measures in response to the measures. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and other officials are already facing sanctions following the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 2019.
Beijing has said the changes in Hong Kong are necessary to ensure that only “patriotic” officials run the city government.
At last year’s National People’s Congress, parliament passed the National Security Law, which was imposed on June 30.
Dozens of opposition politicians, activists and community leaders criticizing the Chinese-backed Hong Kong government have since been detained and charged under the new law, in a move critics say is designed to seed fear among the townspeople and silence dissent.
Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Bureau deputy director Zhang Xiaoming said on Friday that the electoral changes were intended to guard against a “takeover” in the territory.
He also said he aimed to eliminate “those who are against China and those who try to destabilize Hong Kong”. Before the changes, 50 percent of the legislature’s seats were elected directly, with the rest going to industry groups, while the chief executive – with candidates approved first by Beijing – was chosen by a committee.
Current CEO Carrie Lam, who took office in 2017, said she was “delighted” with the changes.
Beijing has dismissed criticism from Western governments as “meddling” in its internal affairs.
Blinken said that ignored China’s agreement with the UK to maintain the city’s “autonomy and listed rights and freedoms” until at least 2047.
He urged the Hong Kong authorities to release and drop the charges against all those indicted under the National Security Act.
“The United States is united with our allies and partners to defend the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong,” said Blinken.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the new measures were “contrary to promises” China had made to the UK.
“This can only further undermine confidence in China’s respect for its international responsibilities and legal obligations as a leading member of the international community,” Raab said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the European Union has warned it may take “further steps” in response to electoral changes.
HKMAO Deputy Director Zhang Xiaoming said that HK’s electoral reform is about protection from “power grabbing”, subversion and infiltration, instead of democratic progress, and there is no no room for the concession. pic.twitter.com/ynCceOAgAA
– Alvin Lum (@alvinllum) March 12, 2021
In a statement on behalf of the 27-nation bloc, EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borrell said the decision “will have a significant impact on democratic accountability and political pluralism in Hong Kong.”
“The European Union regrets that the fundamental freedoms, democratic principles and political pluralism which are at the heart of Hong Kong’s identity and prosperity are under increasing pressure from the authorities.”
Discussions have taken place between EU foreign ministers on the possibility of broader sanctions if the situation in Hong Kong worsens.
Separately, the EU on Thursday announced sanctions against Chinese officials in connection with violations of Uyghur rights in Xinjiang.