China has defended its decision to oust four pro-democracy lawmakers from Hong Kong as “the right medicine” for the city, blasting foreign governments for “meddling” in domestic issues that are none of its business.
“The plain fact is that it is exactly these politicians who have arbitrarily meddled with China’s internal affairs,” said the Chinese foreign ministry in a statement. “It is these politicians who have breached their international obligations.”
Pandemonium erupted in Hong Kong’s parliament this week as 15 pro-democracy lawmakers resigned in protest after government officials dismissed four of their colleagues on alleged national security grounds, yet another step in a broader crackdown from Beijing to quash dissent.
Many foreign governments have condemned China for dismissing the lawmakers.
The UK on Thursday declared China to be in formal breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-registered treaty meant to preserve Hong Kong’s freedoms after the former British colony was returned to Beijing rule under the Communist Party.
Unseating four pro-democracy lawmakers, however, amounted to a “clear breach” of that agreement, said Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
“Beijing has eliminated nearly all of Hong Kong’s promised autonomy, as it neuters democratic processes and legal traditions that have been the bedrock of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity,” said US secretary of state Mike Pompeo.
“Once again, the [Chinese Communist Party’s] twisted vision of patriotism is a pretext to stifle freedom and the call for democracy.”
China has long sought to wrest control of Hong Kong, where protest movements over eroding freedoms have erupted every few years since Beijing resumed control of the territory from Britain in 1997.
Discontent peaked last year when millions of Hong Kong people took to the streets, disrupting the city with mass protests that often ended in violence with police firing tear gas and rubber bullets.
Demonstrations abated with the coronavirus pandemic, and after a sweeping national security law was imposed by Beijing this summer. The law criminalises acts authorities deem as secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion, punishable by up to life in prison.