Beijing moved on Tuesday to officially enact its new national security law in Hong Kong, triggering waves of concern throughout the international community with many countries considering taking action against the global superpower.
In the weeks leading up to the promulgation of the law, multiple governments and organizations have attempted to deter China from encroaching on Hong Kong’s sovereignty by issuing statements condemning the move or threatening sanctions.
China has repeatedly defended the law as necessary to plug legal loopholes in the city’s legislation, stating the need to protect national security by preventing separatist movements and foreign interference in the city.
However, critics have expressed concern that the broadly worded legislation would allow Beijing to carry out its will in Hong Kong with impunity, thus eliminating the autonomy promised to Hong Kong under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
After its passing, thousands of Hong Kongers went out to protest against the law.
Now, multiple foreign bodies have spoken out in solidarity.
The United Kingdom
Given its long relationship with Hong Kong, a former British colony, the United Kingdom has been especially vocal in expressing its concern for the city’s future.
Last month, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his intention to initiate an unprecedented overhaul of the nation’s visa regulations and in order to provide citizenship for Hong Kong citizens. Johnson stated that if China were to proceed with their plans for the national security law, he would allow all three million Hong Kongers who qualify for the British National Overseas (BNO) passport and their dependents to apply for extendible 12-month stays in the UK.
Since the law’s enactment, UK officials have declared that they will “live up to our responsibilities to the people of Hong Kong” and offer a “bespoke” immigration route for those eligible for BNO passports.
“I can now confirm we will proceed to honour our commitment to change the arrangements for those holding BNO status,” said Foreign Minister Dominic Raab on Wednesday.
Raab added that those eligible for BNO status would be granted five years of limited leave in Britain to work or study, after which they can apply for settled status and then eventually citizenship.
Taiwan has also put systems in motion to help those who seek to flee Hong Kong, opening the Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchange Office on Wednesday in their strongest effort yet to provide humanitarian assistance for Hong Kong.
The office will be a base for a task force established last month to help Hong Kongers who wish to move to Taiwan.
“This is an important milestone for the government to further support democracy and freedom in Hong Kong,” said Chen Ming-tong, the head of Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen also voiced her support for the people of Hong Kong.
“China’s disregard for the will of Hong Kong’s people proves that ‘one country, two systems’ is not viable,” she tweeted on Tuesday. “#Taiwan’s commitment to supporting those #HKers who want freedom & democracy has never changed.”
The United States
In recent weeks, bilateral ties between the US and China have been growing increasingly tumultuous.
The world’s top two superpowers have clashed repeatedly over a multitude of issues such as the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, China’s detainment of Uighur muslims (also spelled Uyghur) and China’s encroachment on Hong Kong – all while they attempt to carry out the first phase of their multibillion dollar trade deal.
However, the US has also been incredibly outspoken in their opposition of China’s treatment of Hong Kong. In the last week alone, they passed the “Hong Kong Autonomy Act,” which would impose sanctions on those who support China’s efforts to curtail the freedoms of the city, as well as severely restricted US exports of defense and high-tech equipment to Hong Kong.
On Tuesday, another piece of legislation was proposed by a bipartisan group of senators that would give priority refugee status to Hong Kong residents who are at risk of being persecuted for participating in protests. The “Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act” would also waive immigration intent as a consideration when granting nonimmigrant visas.
“Following last night’s implementation of Beijing’s National Security Law, the U.S. must help Hong Kongers preserve their society at home and find refuge for those who face persecution for exercising the rights once guaranteed under the Joint Declaration,” said Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the co-sponsors of this bill.
There have also been other countries who have publicly condemned China’s actions, without yet taking concrete action to counter them.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday that his government was “prepared to step up and provide support” to Hong Kong citizens after the new law was placed on the city.
When asked whether Australia would consider easing visa requirements or otherwise offering a safe haven to Hong Kongers, Morrison stated that “We are considering very actively the proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago and the final touches would be put on those.”
“They’ll soon be considered by Cabinet to provide similar opportunities,” he added.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, also weighed in on Thursday.
“I think if Europe takes a confident and takes a united position, it will have a long-term effect on China,” she said in an online news conference.
A news release was also issued by the European Council on Wednesday which expressed their “grave concerns” about the law “undermining the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong.”
However, the statement stopped short of threatening action in response to China’s move, saying instead that the EU would “continue to raise its concerns in its dialogue with China … [and] follow developments closely.”
While China has yet to directly respond to all of these developments, they have been firm in their opposition to foreign interference in their “internal affairs.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has also responded harshly to the UK in particular following their offer to open immigration routes to BNO passport holders, saying that they would have to “bear all the consequences of this.”
In a regular news conference given on Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian signaled China’s concern over national security over the potential impact on their diplomatic relations.
“If you have to weigh national security against bilateral relations, it is only too evident which is more important,” he said.
“Nobody and nothing could shake the Chinese government and people’s resolution and will to safeguard national sovereignty and security and uphold Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Any attempt seeking to undermine China’s sovereignty, security and development interests is doomed to fail.”
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