US warns China against 'highly destabilising' Hong Kong move

US warns China against 'highly destabilising' Hong Kong move

Pedestrians walk under a television screen in Hong Kong
Pedestrians walk under a television screen in Hong Kong showing a news broadcast of Chinese President Xi Jinping. (AFP/Anthony WALLACE)

WASHINGTON, DC: The United States on Thursday (May 21) urged China to respect Hong Kong's autonomy, warning that its proposed national security law for the city would be "highly destabilising" and face global opposition.

"Any effort to impose national security legislation that does not reflect the will of the people of Hong Kong would be highly destabilising, and would be met with strong condemnation from the United States and the international community," State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

She said that China's statements and the proposed legislation "undermine" China's promises it made before regaining control of the financial hub from Britain in 1997.

"We urge Beijing to honour its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration - including that Hong Kong will 'enjoy a high degree of autonomy' and that people of Hong Kong will enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms," Ortagus said.

READ: COVID-19: China's top political meetings open with minute's silence for victims

President Donald Trump earlier on Thursday also promised a response when told of the move on Hong Kong.

"I don't know what it is, because nobody knows yet. If it happens, we'll address that issue very strongly," Trump said.

China said it will introduce legislation on Friday on the first day of its rubber-stamp parliament session that would strengthen enforcement of laws in Hong Kong that prohibit "subversion".

READ: China law requires Hong Kong to enact national security rules as soon as possible

Pro-democracy leaders and activists warned that the move would mark "the end of Hong Kong", a fear voiced in months of massive and sometimes violent protests last year.

The US Congress late last year angered China by passing a law that would strip Hong Kong's preferential trading status in the United States if the urban hub is no longer considered autonomous from the mainland.

READ: Calls for protest march in Hong Kong as China pushes new security laws

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this month delayed a report on certifying Hong Kong's autonomy under the law, saying the State Department would wait for the meeting of the legislature, the National People's Congress.

"The United States condemns the ... proposal to unilaterally and arbitrarily impose national security legislation on Hong Kong," Pompeo said in a statement on Friday. 

"The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its international obligations, and respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under US law."

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

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Source: AFP/de

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