Top Hong Kong officials have sharply criticized President Donald Trump's threat to strip the city of its special status. The city's last British governor has said Beijing's moves could lead to a new cold war.
US President Donald Trump's threat to strip Hong Kong of its special status in response to Beijing's decision to impose a new national security law on the territory is "not acceptable" under international standards, Hong Kong's pro-Beijing Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng told reporters on Saturday.
"It is said that we are becoming 'one country, one system' and we've lost our autonomy," said Cheng. "That is completely false and wrong. We are one country … and therefore, as far as national security is concerned, as in any other country in the world, this is a matter that belongs to the central authorities."
Cheng said that Beijing's bypassing of Hong Kong's internal legislative system to impose the security law, which is aimed at punishing treason, sedition, terrorism and foreign interference, did not compromise the territory's autonomy, as US officials claimed.
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Trump said on Friday that the US response would "affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong," including the territory's special trade status.
Trading barbs over special status
Rights groups have slammed the new Chinese law for Hong Kong, not only for its method of passage but also because it is seen as allowing mainland China to further target dissent within the city and quash anti-government protests that have shaken the territory throughout the past year.
The move has also rattled foreign investors, who fear the loss of the privileges that have allowed Hong Kong to thrive as a global financial hub.
Hong Kong Secretary for Security John Lee also criticized the US response, saying that the new law was in line with Hong Kong's mini-constitution, the Basic Law, and that he disapproved of the US "using any measures to suppress or intimidate the officials of the SAR [special administrative region]."
The People's Daily, one of the Chinese Communist Party's primary media outlets, also ran an editorial on Saturday, calling the US move to end some trading privileges for Hong Kong "doomed to fail" and a "gross interference" in China's internal affairs.
Patten slams Beijing
Meanwhile, the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, said Chinese President Xi Jinping is risking a new cold war with China's "thuggish" crackdown on the territory.
The law could trigger an outflow of both people and capital — an effect that could see Hong Kong lose its status as a global financial hub, said Patten, who served as governor from 1992 to 1997, when the territory was handed back to China after more than 150 years of British rule.
"What does it mean? It means serious question marks not just about Hong Kong's future as a free society but also about Hong Kong's ability to continue as probably the premier international financial hub in Asia," Patten said in an interview with Reuters. "A lot of people will try to leave Hong Kong."
He added that the West should promote a stronger response to China's actions, saying that the West had been even more naive with Xi's China than it had with post-Soviet Russia.
"What Xi has demonstrated so far is that unless you stand up to bullies they go on bullying you," he said.
"We have long since passed the stage where, without wanting another cold war, we have to react to the fact Xi seems to want one himself, seems to want to be able to bully his way to whatever he thinks China wants."
China passed the Hong Kong national security law after stiff public opposition scuppered a previous attempt by the territory's legislature to pass such legislation in 2003.
Beijing's resolve appeared to have been hardened by months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong that frequently led to violent confrontations between police and the largely youthful demonstrators.
lc/sri (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)