U.S. mulls 'nuclear option' as China threatens Hong Kong autonomy

Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmakers holding up placards are blocked by security as they protest China's planned national security legislation during a House Committee meeting

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday condemned China's effort to take over national security legislation in Hong Kong, calling it "a death knell for the high degree of autonomy" that Beijing had promised the territory.

The government supports the NPC's resolution to introduce the new national security law in the city as it "is facing an increasingly severe national security situation, and because legislative bodies in Hong Kong can hardly complete national security legislation on its own for a foreseeable amount of time", she said. Following widespread protests in the territory against its proposed extradition law past year, applications to emigrate from Hong Kong to Taiwan rose significantly, reports said. The Trump administration has foisted blame on China for failing to be sufficiently transparent at the outset of the deadly. virus. President Trump should invoke that law if the Chinese measures take hold, as it will be clear that Hong Kong no longer has a genuinely separate system to protect.

The law was submitted at the annual National People's Congress (NPC), which largely rubber-stamps decisions already taken by the Communist leadership, but is still the most important political event of the year.

It has observed a "one country, two systems" policy since Britain returned sovereignty in 1997, which has allowed it certain freedoms the rest of China does not have.

Kwok said the most effective leverage would be to stress how investors would be spooked by the narrowing of autonomy in Hong Kong, one of the world's pre-eminent financial capitals.

In announcing the plans late on Thursday night, the Communist Party gave few specifics for the planned law other than it would strengthen "enforcement mechanisms" for Hong Kong.

Laws that harm democracy, human rights and Hong Kong's freedom under the guise of national security will increase societal instability and heighten risks for worldwide citizens in the city, Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said in an emailed statement.

In his statement, Mr Pompeo said any decision to impinge on Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms would "inevitably impact our assessment" of the territory's status.

Martin Lee, considered the grandfather of Hong Kong's democracy movement, made a similar point to the Heritage Foundation, warning that Beijing could renege on Trump's cherished trade agreement. Some have described the proposed anti-sedition law as a "mark of desperation" after nearly a year of not being able to halt the protests.

Riot police stand guard near a group of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who are stopped for breaking restrictions on social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic
China introduces new security bill in parliament to tighten controls over Hong Kong

A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry's office of the commissioner to Hong Kong said in a statement Pompeo's actions can not scare the Chinese people and that Beijing will safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests. Student activist and politician Joshua Wong tweeted that the move was an attempt by Beijing to "silence Hong Kongers' critical voices with force and fear".

The notion of "terrorism" also features in this proposed law.

Now, new legislation is in the works that promises to make that crisis much worse.

China could essentially place the draft law into Annex III of the Basic Law, which covers national laws that must be implemented in Hong Kong - either by legislation, or decree.

The millions-strong, often violent protests previous year sparked by a controversial extradition law shocked the Chinese leadership and in recent months, Chinese officials have unequivocally ordered the city to enact legislation to bar subversion, separatism, and foreign interference to plug the national security "loopholes" that threaten the country's stability.

Hong Kong, a former British colony, was handed to China in 1997 and has been governed by a system that guaranteed freedoms, such as freedom of speech and free elections, that are not allowed on mainland China.

Hong Kong is only one flashpoint between the United States and China, the world's top two economies.

This was enshrined in the Basic Law, which runs out in 2047. Wang Chen, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC, said since the return of Hong Kong, China has been firmly implementing the principles of "one country, two systems", "the people of Hong Kong governing Hong Kong", and a high degree of autonomy.

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