After China passed the controversial national security legislation for Hong Kong on Tuesday, the country might be heading on a collision course with the European Union, EU, and other world powers.
The United States began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under US law on Monday, halting defence exports and restricting the territory’s access to high technology products.
“We deplore the decision. This law risks seriously undermining the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong and having a detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law” EU Council President Charles Michel told a news conference shortly after the news broke.
Just last week, the European Parliament urged the bloc to take China to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, the United Nations’ highest legal body, if it went ahead.
Similarly, in London, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the legislation a “grave step”.
“We are deeply concerned by unconfirmed reports that Beijing has passed the national security law,” Raab said.
Recall that protests broke out in Hong Kong after China signaled plans to impose new national-security laws on Hong Kong with critics fearing this could undermine judicial independence and endanger dissidents.
Until 1997, Hong Kong was ruled by Britain as a colony but then returned to China. Under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, it has some autonomy, and its people more rights.
With the law now signed, Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam has come out to urge the international community to respect China’s right to safeguard security.
In a video message to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Lam said the city of 7.5 million had been “traumatized by escalating violence fanned by external forces”.
“No central government could turn a blind eye to such threats to sovereignty and national security, as well as risks of subversion of state power,” she said.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” in Hong Kong and will not affect its rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.
Despite such the assurances, the European Union has warned of serious consequences over the legislation, which democracy activists, diplomats, and some businesses say will jeopardize Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status and its role as a global financial hub.
“We will pay careful attention on how to respond,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, adding that the bloc was discussing possible response measures with “international partners” but without giving details.
In Tokyo, top government officials called the legislation “regrettable”, saying it undermined credibility in the “one country, two systems” formula.
“We will continue to work with the countries involved to deal with this issue appropriately,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
Japan will also communicate closely with the United States and China, as stable ties between the two global powers were vital for regional and global security, he added.
Taiwan’s cabinet said in a statement the new law would “severely impact” freedom, democracy, and human rights and Taiwan would continue to offer help to people in Hong Kong.
“The government strongly condemns it and reiterates its support for the people of Hong Kong as they strive for democracy and freedom,” said cabinet spokesman Evian Ting.
“The move severely impacts Hong Kong society’s freedom, human rights and stability” he added
Last year’s protests drew wide sympathy in democratic and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, which has welcomed people from Hong Kong who have moved to the island and expects more.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said she was “very disappointed” by China’s move, adding that it showed the “one country, two systems” formula, which Beijing has mooted as a basis for unification with the mainland, “was not feasible”.
“We hope Hong Kong people continue to adhere to the freedom, democracy, and human rights that they cherish,” Tsai told reporters.
The European Union has expressed anger while Britain and Japan voiced concern on Tuesday after China’s parliament approved the national security law.
The recently passed legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the United States, Britain, and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the global financial hub was granted at its July 1, 1997 handover.