US says electoral modifications in Hong Kong ‘assault on democracy’ | Politics Information
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has condemned China’s approval of major changes to the Hong Kong electoral system, calling the move an “attack on democracy” and a “direct attack” on the autonomy promised for the area when it returned to China in 1997 Sovereignty returned.
In a statement Thursday just hours after Beijing approved its plan to veto candidates for political office in Hong Kong, Blinken said the measures run counter to the goal of the Hong Kong elections “moving towards universal suffrage” .
The basic law of the territory, its mini-constitution, contains the promise of an eventual universal suffrage.
“These actions deny Hong Kong people a voice in their own governance by restricting political participation, diminishing democratic representation and stifling political debate,” said Blinken.
He urged the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to continue the already belated Legislative Council elections in September and “ensure that all candidates are admitted in a transparent and credible manner”. It was reported that the elections could be postponed again as Hong Kong takes into account changes in the candidate screening process.
Blinken didn’t say whether Washington was considering additional steps in response to the measures. Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and other officials have already been sanctioned after cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in 2019.
Beijing said the changes in Hong Kong were necessary to ensure that only “patriotic” officials run the city’s government.
At last year’s National People’s Congress, the Stamp Parliament passed the National Security Law, which was passed on June 30th.
Dozens of opposition politicians, activists and community leaders criticizing the China-backed Hong Kong government have since been arrested and charged under the new law. Critics say this is intended to instill fear in the city’s residents and silence dissent.
On Friday, Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Bureau Deputy Director Zhang Xiaoming said the election changes were intended to protect against “seizure of power” in the territory.
He also said it aims to remove “those against China and those trying to destabilize Hong Kong”. Before the changes, 50 percent of the seats in the legislature were directly elected, the rest were assigned to industry groups, while the director general – with candidates first reviewed by Beijing – was selected by a committee.
Current managing director Carrie Lam, who took office in 2017, said she was “excited” about the changes.
Beijing has dismissed criticism from Western governments as “meddling” in its internal affairs.
Blinken said China’s agreement with the UK to maintain the city’s “autonomy and enumerated rights and freedoms” until at least 2047 will be ignored.
He called on the Hong Kong authorities to release and drop charges against anyone charged under the National Security Law.
Hong Kong executive director Carrie Lam said she was “pleased” with the National People’s Congress decision to implement election changes in her city [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]”The United States is united with our allies and partners when it stands up for the rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong,” said Blinken.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the new measures were “in contradiction to promises” made by China to Britain.
“This can only further undermine confidence in China, which lives up to its international responsibilities and legal obligations as a leading member of the international community,” Raab said in a statement.
In the meantime, the European Union has warned that it could take “additional steps” in response to the election changes.
HKMAO deputy director Zhang Xiaoming said HK electoral reform was a matter of protecting against “takeover,” subversion and infiltration rather than democratic progress, and that there was no room for concession. pic.twitter.com/ynCceOAgAA
– Alvin Lum (@alvinllum) March 12, 2021
In a statement on behalf of the 27-nation bloc, EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said the decision would “have a significant impact on democratic accountability and political pluralism in Hong Kong.”
“The European Union regrets that the fundamental freedoms, democratic principles and political pluralism, which are central to Hong Kong’s identity and prosperity, are coming under increasing pressure from the authorities.”
There were discussions among EU foreign ministers about the possibility of more extensive sanctions if the situation in Hong Kong worsened.
Separately, on Thursday the EU announced sanctions against Chinese officials in connection with the reported violations of rights against Uyghurs in Xinjiang.
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