Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 7 December 2019

Beijing warns US diplomat of 'strong measures' over Hong Kong rights bill

Warning comes as Polytechnic University stand-off nears end

HONG KONG, CHINA - November 19: Unwell and injured protesters leave for hospital at The Hong Kong Poytechnic University on November 19, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Anti-government protesters organized a general strike since Monday as demonstrations in Hong Kong stretched into its sixth month with demands for an independent inquiry into police brutality, the retraction of the word "riot" to describe the rallies, and genuine universal suffrage. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
HONG KONG, CHINA - November 19: Unwell and injured protesters leave for hospital at The Hong Kong Poytechnic University on November 19, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Anti-government protesters organized a general strike since Monday as demonstrations in Hong Kong stretched into its sixth month with demands for an independent inquiry into police brutality, the retraction of the word "riot" to describe the rallies, and genuine universal suffrage. (Photo by Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

China's foreign ministry on Wednesday summoned acting US charge d'affaires William Klein to lodge a "strong protest" over the US Senate's passing of a Hong Kong rights bill, warning of "strong" countermeasures against the US should the legislation be signed into law.

In its statement, the foreign ministry said "we strongly urge the US side to immediately take effective measures to prevent this bill from becoming law".

This act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs,

foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang

The statement also said that "otherwise, the Chinese side will take strong measures to resolutely counter it, and the US side must bear all the consequences".

China's foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang followed this statement by saying in a press conference that "this act neglects facts and truth, applies double standards and blatantly interferes in Hong Kong affairs and China’s other internal affairs”.

The bill, known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act would direct various US departments to assess whether political developments in Hong Kong justify changing Hong Kong's unique treatment under US law.

Specifically, it would require the Secretary of State to issue an annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy to justify special treatment afforded to Hong Kong by the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

It would also require the US president to identify persons responsible for the abductions of Hong Kong booksellers and journalists to mainland China, and those complicit in suppressing basic freedoms in Hong Kong, and to freeze their US-based assets and deny them entry into the United States.

It would oblige the Secretary of Commerce to issue an annual report assessing whether the government of Hong Kong is adequately enforcing both US export regulations regarding sensitive dual-use items and abiding by US and UN sanctions, particularly regarding Iran and North Korea.

Finally, it would enable the revision of the US-Hong Kong extradition agreement and wouldn't impede visa applications on the basis of the applicant’s arrest or detention from participation in protest activities related to pro-democracy advocacy, human rights, or the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Advocates for the bill include Hong Kong residents against mainland China's now withdrawn extradition bill and members of the Hong Kong pro-democracy camp such as Denise Ho and Joshua Wong who have rejected the suggestion that the bill constituted an inappropriate US involvement in another country’s affairs.

The Hong Kong government criticised the bill, saying in a statement that it was an interference into the internal affairs of Hong Kong and the city would safeguard its own autonomy.

The situation in Hong Kong remains volatile with fresh, violent clashes between protesters and police continuing since last week. Two significant events inspired this. One was the shooting of a second protester by police with live bullets on November 11th; the other being police laying siege to university campuses, which had previously been treated as safe havens resulting in pitched battles over bridges connecting campuses to the city.

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has been the epicentre of this intense confrontation between protesters and students and the Hong Kong police, with police surrounding the university on November 17 in a standoff that has entered its fourth day but is nearing its end.

Multiple colleges have canceled classes for the rest of the semester.

Mass protests began in Hong Kong in June against an extradition bill that would have connected the city's judicial system with mainland China's judicial system, allowing extradition to take place from Hong Kong to the mainland. The bill was formally withdrawn in October but public sentiment soured towards the Hong Kong government and smaller bands of protesters began to regularly engage in confrontations with the police. Protesters continue to call for their demands to be answered, which call for an independent investigation into police actions, retraction of the label 'riot', amnesty for arrested protesters, and universal suffrage for the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, an unfulfilled demand of the 2014 Occupy Central protests also known as the Umbrella Movement.

Beijing has reacted to the protests by supporting the police in Hong Kong.

In an unusually public comment on November 14, Chinese president Xi Jinping said that “stopping violence, controlling chaos, and restoring order are Hong Kong’s most urgent duties”. A deluge of Chinese state media articles have followed his comments, calling for more arrests and stricter punishments for protesters including Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of Beijing's Global Times saying live rounds should be permitted against protesters.

Updated: November 22, 2019 04:21 AM

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