Hong Kong: the US passes sanctions as nations condemn the new law

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

The measure, which was passed unanimously, penalizes banks that do business with Chinese officials. It will have to be approved by the Senate before going to President Trump.

Critics say China’s law ends freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years when British rule led to 1997. “The law may be a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the people of Hong Kong, intended to destroy the freedoms they were promised,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the passing of the law was a “clear and high breach” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration.

Under this declaration, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, with certain freedoms guaranteed for a minimum of 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement.

The UK has offered a residency, then citizenship, to up to 3 million Hong Kongers. But on Thursday China threatened “corresponding measures” to dam the citizenship plan.

“If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it’ll breach its own position and pledges, also as the law of nations and basic norms,” said the Chinese Embassy within the UK.

China said the safety law was necessary to prevent the sort of protests seen in Hong Kong during much of 2019. And despite condemnation within the West, quite 50 countries, led by Cuba, supported China at the UN in the week.

What does US law say?
The Hong Kong Autonomy Act imposes sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials who are involved in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Ms. Pelosi said the law was an “urgently needed response to [China’s passing] of its so-called ‘national security’ law… which is purpose-built to dismantle democratic freedoms in Hong Kong”.

Before the bill was signed, the US had already begun eliminating Hong Kong’s special status – halting defense exports and restricting the territory’s access to high-technology products.

Last year, the US had also signed into law the Human Rights and Democracy Act, supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

What produce other countries said?
The UK said it’ll offer to 3 million Hong Kong residents the prospect to settle there and ultimately apply for full British citizenship.

Australia is additionally “actively considering” offering shelter to Hong Kong residents – with Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying there have been proposals that will “soon be considered by cabinet”.

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

“It will undermine trust for the principle of ‘one country, two systems'” said the secretary of state Toshimitsu Motegi.

European Council President Charles Michel said it “deplored” the law – adding that it had a “detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and rule of law”.

And Canada changed its travel advice to Hong Kong, saying the new law “increased the danger of arbitrary detention on national security grounds and possible extradition to mainland China”.

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

Have all countries been critical?
No. At the United Nations in the week, Cuba – on behalf of 53 countries – welcomed the law. Speaking at the 44th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, it said: “Non-interference in internal affairs of sovereign states is an important principle enshrined within the Charter of the United Nations.

“We believe every country has the proper to safeguard its national security through legislation and commend relevant steps taken for this purpose.”

How features a new law been used so far?
Just hours after the law was passed, the Hong Kong police made their first arrests. Ten people were accused of violating the new law, including a person with a pro-independence flag. About 360 others were detained at a banned rally.

Under the new law, inciting hatred of China’s central government and Hong Kong’s regional government are offenses. Acts including damaging conveyance facilities – which frequently happened during the 2019 protests – are often considered terrorism.

Source: bbc news

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