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China is using coronavirus crisis as a distraction to push through its geopolitical aims, says former governor of Hong Kong

The Guardian reports:

China has betrayed the people of Hong Kong and the UK has a moral, economic and legal duty to stand up for them, Chris Patten, the last governor of the former British colony, has said.

Beijing is set to impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong after a sustained campaign of pro-democracy protests last year in the city, which enjoys many freedoms not allowed on mainland China.

“The Hong Kong people have been betrayed by China,” and the west should stop kowtowing to Beijing for an illusory “great pot of gold”, Patten was quoted as saying in the Times.

Patten watched as the British flag was lowered over Hong Kong when the colony was handed back to China in 1997 after more than 150 years of British rule.

Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” principle enshrined in the 1984 joint declaration signed by the Chinese premier at the time, Zhao Ziyang, and the British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Beijing’s plans to impose national security laws on Hong Kong risk destroying the declaration, Patten said. [Continue reading…]

Ilaria Maria Sala and Louisa Lim write:

Beijing’s announcement that it will force through a “national security” law in Hong Kong is, to date, the greatest infringement of China’s promises to the special administrative region. It threatens to undermine all the cherished institutions and rights that distinguish this international city from mainland China. The legislation is designed to prevent “sedition, subversion, secession and treason”, but the manner in which it is being introduced is undercutting Hong Kong’s relative autonomy, its independent judiciary and its legislature.

The issue has always been controversial. In 1989, Beijing became worried by Hong Kong’s support for the pro-democracy movement in China; it requested that the territory draft anti-subversion laws on its own after 1997, when Hong Kong was handed over to China by Britain. Although this is required by article 23 of Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, it has never been enacted. In 2003, the Hong Kong government tried to introduce the legislation, resulting in street protests of half a million people. This time, following months of bitter protests, Beijing has clearly run out of patience.

At the opening of the National People’s Congress – delayed by two months because of the global pandemic – the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, announced that Beijing would impose the legislation on Hong Kong by adding it to an annex of the Basic Law. This bypasses Hong Kong’s legislature, whose procedural gridlock climaxed last week with pro-democracy legislators being carried out by security guards while a pro-Beijing politician was installed as a committee chair. Beijing is effectively taking away Hong Kong’s right to legislate for itself, promulgating laws that will be forced upon the territory. [Continue reading…]

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