Western allies have condemned China for using the smokescreen of the COVID-19 pandemic to impose a new security law in Hong Kong which violates its international commitments and threatens the “bastion of freedom”.
The dire warnings came from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada as tensions between the embattled Chinese Communist Party and the west reached rock bottom.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi says American politicians are taking China-US relations “hostage” and “pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War” – and placing world stability “in jeopardy”.
“It’s time for the US to give up this wishful thinking of changing China or stopping 1.4 billion people’s historic march toward modernisation,” Mr Wang warned.
The joint statement from four of the Five Eyes allies said: “China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration”.
“The proposed law would undermine the One Country, Two Systems framework. It also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes, and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people.
“The world’s focus on a global pandemic requires enhanced trust in governments and international cooperation. Beijing’s unprecedented move risks having the opposite effect.”
China Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian warned his country “will take necessary counter-measures” against interference from external forces – an aggressive tactic China has wielded throughout the pandemic to suppress rising anti-China sentiment and hide its early failures.
The most egregious of these was China’s twin billion-dollar trade blows in May on Australian barley and abattoirs after its ambassador issued a threat in response to the Morrison government’s call for an inquiry into the origin of the virus.
As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it – “the Chinese Communist Party chose to threaten Australia with economic retribution for the simple act of asking for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus”.
China initially perceived the inquiry Australia pushed, which passed the World Health Assembly unanimously, as a witch-hunt created by Washington but eventually bowed to international pressure provided its World Health Organisation “puppet” leads the review.