US stands with Hong Kong over new security law

10:13 PM Jul 02, 2020 | Agencies
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The Democrats-led US House of Representatives has approved new Hong Kong-related sanctions, after Beijing imposed a security law for the city that has been condemned by countries around the world.

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which was passed unanimously late Wednesday, imposes sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials who are involved in cracking down on pro-democracy protesters in the city, the BBC reported.

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"The law is a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the people of Hong Kong, intended to destroy the freedoms they were promised," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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She added that the law was an "urgently needed response to (China's passing) of its so-called 'national security' law... which is purpose built to dismantle democratic freedoms in Hong Kong".

Before the bill was signed, the US had already began eliminating Hong Kong's special status - halting defence exports and restricting the territory's access to high-technology products.

Last year, the US had also signed into law the Human Rights and Democracy Act, supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

China's security law , which came into effect on Tuesday night, It lists four categories of offences - secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security.

The maximum penalty for each crime is life imprisonment, although the suggested sentence for some minor offences is less than three years' imprisonment.

Suspects can be extradited to mainland China in cases that involve "complicated situations" of interference by foreign forces; cases in which the local government cannot effectively enforce the law and ones where national security is under "serious and realistic threats".

Also on Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the passing of the law was a "clear and serious breach" of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration, the BBC reported.

But on Thursday China threatened "corresponding measures" to block the citizenship plan.

"If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges, as well as international law and basic norms," said the Chinese Embassy in the UK.

After UK, Australia opens doors for Hong Kongers

Prime Minister Scott Morrision on Thursday said Australia was "actively considering" an offer of safe haven to Hong Kong residents threatened by the imposition of a controversial security law by China that gave it sweeping powers over the former British territory.

Amidst global anger and outrage in Hong Kong, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday signed the legislation soon after lawmakers voted unanimously to adopt the law that will allow Beijing to crackdown against dissent, criminalising sedition and effectively curtailing protests with punishments up to life in prison.

Hong Kong police on Wednesday arrested 10 people under the law, which came into effect on Tuesday, as thousands of agitators defied tear gas and pepper pellets to protest against the legislation.

Prime Minister Morrison told reporters that he was disturbed by the crackdowns on protesters in Hong Kong.

Replying to a question on if Australia would offer a safe haven for Hong Kong residents, he said, "We are considering (it) very actively and there are proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago." The prime minister said the Cabinet would soon consider "to provide similar opportunities" to what the UK has offered to Hong Kongers.

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