Washington, United States:
The United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand on Wednesday accused China of violating its legally binding international obligations by ousting pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong lawmakers.
The Foreign Ministers of the five allies said China was breaking its 1984 promise to maintain autonomy in the financial center after the then British colony was surrendered in 1997.
The removal of four oppositional legislators triggered the massive resignation of their remaining colleagues. This was the latest step in cracking down on Beijing’s critics following the large and often violent democracy protests last year.
“China’s action is a clear violation of its international obligations under the legally binding Sino-British joint statement registered by the United Nations,” the nations said in a joint statement, repeating individual remarks.
Foreign ministers said the latest move was part of a “concerted campaign to silence all critical voices” in the financial center.
“To ensure the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong, it is important that China and the Hong Kong authorities respect the channels through which Hong Kong people can express their legitimate concerns and opinions,” they said.
China promised to rule Hong Kong through a “one country, two systems” model that would allow the city to maintain key freedoms and autonomy from the authoritarian mainland through 2047.
Western allies say the deal was prematurely destroyed by the crackdown, which included a comprehensive national security law passed direct by Beijing in June.
The law has since all but eradicated disagreements against Chinese rule on the territory and has frightened parts of the population to speak out for fear of being imprisoned or disappearing into the mainland’s opaque legal system.
China’s leaders deny violating their promises prior to the surrender, saying the western powers have no right to interfere in the leadership of the global trading center.
The disqualification of the legislature is the latest move by China to increase direct control over a city where more and more people are violating their rule.
Last week, China’s parliamentary body passed a decree allowing local authorities to expel any politician identified as a threat to national security without going to court.
Minutes later, the Hong Kong authorities used the new powers.
Only half of the legislature’s seats are elected by referendum, a mechanism designed to ensure a permanent pro-Beijing majority.
But the subsequent solidarity resignations by the pro-democracy opposition turned the once lively legislature into a muted gathering of Beijing loyalists.
Police have also begun prosecuting oppositional lawmakers over protests in the Chamber. Seven people have been charged so far this month.
Three of them were arrested Wednesday for throwing foul-smelling liquid earlier this year to halt a debate on a law criminalizing insults against China’s national anthem.
The trio is expected to appear in court later Thursday.
“How is that different from a police state?” Ted Hui, one of the indicted lawmakers, said Wednesday after he was released on bail.
“This arrest has shown again to people in Hong Kong and around the world that the state is constantly suppressing all opposition voices,” he added.
China has defended overthrowing opposition lawmakers as “the right medicine”.
In a speech earlier this week, senior Beijing official Zhang Xiaoming said that only patriotic people are allowed to serve as lawmakers.
“Patriots rule, anti-China troublemakers are a political rule … Now it has become a legal norm too,” he said.