India for the first time on Wednesday commented on the new Chinese security law in Hong Kong, stating that it hoped “relevant parties” would address the concerns “properly, seriously and objectively”, reported PTI. India’s concern about the law comes amid rising tension with China.
On Tuesday, China’s parliament passed a national security legislation for Hong Kong that would override local laws and give sweeping powers to security agencies. The unprecedented law is aimed at curbing protests – which rocked Hong Kong last year – and prohibiting subversion, separatism, “acts of foreign interference”, and terrorism. These charges are often used in the Chinese mainland to stifle dissidents and political opponents. The new law will also allow China’s security personnel to operate in Hong Kong.
“Given the large Indian community that makes the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China its home, India has been keeping a close watch on recent developments,” said Rajiv K Chander, India’s ambassador and permanent representative to the UN, at a press briefing. “We have heard several statements expressing concerns about these developments. We hope the relevant parties will take into account these views and address them properly, seriously and objectively.”
According to an estimate on the website of the Consulate General of India in Hong Kong, there are around 38,000 Indians living in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Police has already arrested nine people under the new national security law, reported AFP on Wednesday. Another 300 were taken into custody as thousands defied a ban on protests on the anniversary of the city’s handover to China.
Those arrested under the new law have been accused of possessing independence flags, stickers and flyers. “Advocacy for independence of Hong Kong is against the law,” said Security Minister John Lee.
Under the new law, certain political views and symbols, including those showing support for Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet independence, are now illegal.
The new legislation came after people in Hong Kong held anti-Beijing protests for months from June 2019. China said the security law was necessary to stop the type of protests seen in Hong Kong. Critics say China’s law ends the freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement when British rule ended in 1997.
Deteriorating Indo-China ties
Diplomatic relations between India and China have plummeted after a violent clash on the Line of Actual Control last month. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed and 76 injured in the altercation on the intervening night of June 15-June 16. The Chinese side also suffered casualties but has not yet shared any official details about it. The face-off between the two neighbouring countries was the worst instance of violence along the Line of Actual Control since 1975.
Since then India has banned 59 mobile applications that have Chinese links. Several members of the public have also held protests against China, while some BJP leaders have also publicly voiced their anti-China views.
Response from UK and US
Britain on Wednesday offered Hong Kong residents citizenship as a response to China’s new law. The UK said it will offer up to three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle there and apply for full British citizenship.
“We stand for rules and obligations,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the parliament just hours after China made its first arrests in Hong Kong under the new legislation, reported BBC. “The enactment and deposition of this national security law constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
Meanwhile, the US House of Representatives approved sanctions that allows to penalise banks for doing business with Chinese officials. “The law is a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the people of Hong Kong, intended to destroy the freedoms they were promised,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The US’ ties with China have also soured, as President Donald Trump has repeatedly blamed Beijing for the coronavirus spreading and becoming a pandemic.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday also said his government may follow Britain in offering visas to Hong Kong citizens, The Guardian reported.
“We do find these events very concerning and we have been very clear about our statements on that in concert with many other nations,” Morrison told reporters. “We are considering [the issue] very actively and there are proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago and the final touches are being put on those and they’ll soon be considered by cabinet to provide similar opportunities.”
The prime minister added that the Australian government was “prepared to step up and provide support”.