United States on Wednesday warned China of further sanctions after Beijing passed a new law that led to the disqualification of four pro-democracy legislators in Hong Kong, AFP reported.
“Beijing’s recent actions disqualifying pro-democracy legislators from Hong Kong’s Legislative Council leave no doubt that the Chinese Communist Party has flagrantly violated its international commitments,” said US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien. He added that the US would continue to identify and sanction “those responsible for extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom”.
Under the new legislation passed by China, Hong Kong’s Legislative Council members shall be disqualified once it is determined that they have failed to meet the legal requirements of upholding the region’s Basic Law, and honouring the pledge of allegiance. This includes advocating or supporting “Hong Kong independence”, refusal to recognise the state’s sovereignty and its exercise of sovereignty over the region, and calling for “interference” by other countries.
On Thursday morning, Hong Kong legislator Cheuk Ting Lam unfurled protest banners inside the parliamentary building, according to The Guardian. “[Hong Kong Chief Executive] Carrie Lam has brought disaster to Hong Kong and its people, Carrie Lam will stink for 10,000 years,” one banner read.
Cheuk Ting Lam also said that there is hope as long as they carry on. “History tells us that in the face of dictatorship, victory ultimately belongs to the people,” he wrote on social media.
US Democrat Senator Jeff Merkley and Republican Senator Marco Rubio said that democracy was “gasping for air” in Hong Kong and that “there will be consequences”. Both of them are members of the US Senate committee on foreign relations.
“China’s unelected and unaccountable National People’s Congress standing committee took another grave step toward stripping the people of Hong Kong of their sacred rights and freedoms,” the senators said in a statement.
The Chinese state media, however, lauded the decision, calling the disqualification a “long overdue” step for peace and prosperity in the region. “Those...who fancy that they can continue to act as pawns of external forces in the city’s legislature should wake up to the reality that the days when they could act with impunity are gone,” said China Daily, the country’s official English language newspaper.
On Monday, the US had imposed sanctions on four officials accused of curbing freedom in Hong Kong. Head of the National Security Division of the Hong Kong Police Force Edwina Lau was among those sanctioned. She cannot travel to the US and her assets in the country, if any, will be frozen.
The disqualification of the legislators was followed by the resignation of all pro-democracy politicians in Hong Kong. “Today, we announce we will resign from our positions as our colleagues are being disqualified by the central government’s ruthless move,” Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said. “There is separation of powers under the Basic Law, but today, the central government’s decision means separation of powers will be taken away. All the power will be centralised in the chief executive – a puppet of the central government. So today is the end of ‘one country, two systems’.”
Wednesday’s mass resignations will leave the city with only pro-Beijing lawmakers, who are already in the majority. This means they can now pass legislation that China favours without any opposition.