European leaders condemn China’s ‘deplorable’ new Hong Kong security law

Beijing faces ‘very negative consequences’, warns European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 01 July 2020 15:20 BST
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European leaders have condemned China’s decision to bring in a sweeping new security law in Hong Kong aimed at stamping out protests in the semi-autonomous territory.

The European Council said the legislation enacted by Beijing on Tuesday was “deplorable”, while the European Commission said it would seriously damage China’s reputation around the world.

“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 rule of law, and we deplore this decision,” said European Council President Charles Michel.

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said: “We have indeed consistently said that China would risk very negative consequences if it went ahead with this law, including for business confidence, China’s reputation, public perception in Hong Kong and internationally.”

She added: “We remain in touch with our international partners on this matter and will pay careful attention to how to respond.”

While German chancellor Angela Merkel has yet to comment on the new security law, Germany’s foreign minister Heiko Maas said the new security would damage relations between the EU and China.

“What is happening there is extremely worrying because we believe that Hong Kong’s autonomy is gradually being eroded,” Mr Maas told German public broadcaster ZDF “Ultimately, the relationship between China and the European Union will be affected.”

Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that he would offer a new path to UK citizenship for around three million Hong Kongers with British National (Overseas) status in response to the new security law.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said China’s move constituted “a clear violation” of the autonomy of Hong Kong and a “direct threat to the freedoms of its people”.

Police officers detain protesters during rally against new national security law
Police officers detain protesters during rally against new national security law (EPA)

The law makes secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities illegal, as well as foreign intervention in the territory’s affairs. It will also see security agencies from mainland China in Hong Kong for the first time, and allow for extradition to the mainland for trial.

Critics fear it is aimed at crushing the freedom to protest and ending the pro-democracy opposition.

Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested nearly 200 people on Wednesday, as protesters took to the streets in defiance.

Police cited the law for the first time in confronting protesters. “You are displaying flags or banners/chanting slogans/or conducting yourselves with an intent such as secession or subversion, which may constitute offences under the ... national security law,” police said in a message displayed on a purple banner.

Steve Tsang, who directs the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said that if the EU were to join forces on the issue with the so-called “Five Eyes” alliance — the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — they would be able to exert more pressure on China.

However, Mr Tsang said it was “far-fetched” for either Mr Johnson or Donald Trump to work with the EU on the issue. “It is reasonable for Beijing to calculate that both the UK and US are paper tigers. Boris is focused on Brexit. He is happy to cooperate with anyone except for the EU.”

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