New Era

Western allies say China broke Hong Kong deal


WASHINGTON - The United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand accused China of violating its legally binding internatio­nal commitment­s by ousting prodemocra­cy lawmakers from Hong Kong’s legislatur­e.

The foreign ministers of the five allies said China was going against its 1984 promise that it would preserve autonomy in the financial hub after the then British colony’s handover in 1997.

The removal of four opposit ion lawmakers triggered the en masse resignatio­n of their remaining colleagues, the latest move in a deepening crackdown against Beijing’s critics following last year’s huge and often violent democracy protests.

“China’s action is a clear breach of its internatio­nal obligation­s under the legally binding, UN-registered SinoBritis­h Joint Declaratio­n,” the nationssai­dinajoints­tatement, reiteratin­g individual remarks.

The foreign ministers said the latest move appeared to be part of a “concerted campaign to silence all critical voices” in the financial hub.

“For the sake of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, it is essential that China and the Hong Kong authoritie­s respect the channels for the people of Hong Kong to express their legitimate concerns and opinions,” said the alliance, known collective­ly as the Five Eyes.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman on Thursday hit back against the accusation, calling it a “blatant violation of internatio­nal law” and saying “any attempt to exert pressure on China... is doomed to fail.”

“No matter if they have five or ten eyes, if they dare to damage China’s sovereignt­y, security and developmen­t interests, they should beware of being blinded,” said spokesman Zhao Lijian.

China promised to rule Hong Kong via a “One Country, Two Systems” model that would allow the city to retain key freedoms and autonomy from the authoritar­ian mainland until 2047.

Wes te rn allies say that agreement has been prematurel­y shredded by the clampdown, which has included a broad national security law that was imposed directly by Beijing in June.

The law has since all but wiped out dissent against Chineserul­eintheterr­itoryand left swathes of the population too scared to speak out, fearing being jailed or disappeari­ng into the mainland’s opaque legal system.

China’s leaders deny breaching their pre-handover promises and say Western powers have no right to interfere in how the global trade hub is run.

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