As it happened Ended
Thursday 2 July 2020 20:03
China has said it would take “corresponding measures” if Boris Johnson’s government pushes forward with its plan to give three million Hong Kong residents the chance to settle in the UK. The Chinese foreign ministry claimed the offer violated previous agreements.
As Beijing faces international condemnation for imposing a new security law on the city, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison suggested his government may follow the UK in offering visas to Hong Kong citizens.
It came as the US Senate approved a bill imposing sanctions on Chinese officials and any Hong Kong police units clashing with protesters. China’s foreign ministry warned of “strong countermeasures” against the US if the bill becomes law.
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of protests in Hong Kong and international reaction to China’s move to impose a new national security law on the semi-autonomous territory.
China warns of ‘corresponding measures’ if UK ‘interferes’ in Hong Kong
China has said it reserves “the right to take corresponding measures” if the UK pushes forward with its plan to give three million Hong Kong residents the right to settle in the country.
Boris Johnson accused Beijing of a “clear and serious breach” of its treaty with Britain by imposing a much-criticised national security law on the territory – and said he would introduce a route for people with British National (Overseas) (BNO) status to apply for visas to live and work in the UK and apply for citizenship.
In response, the Chinese Embassy in the UK said such a move would be in breach of “international law and basic norms governing international relations”.
A statement said: “We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures. We urge the British side to view objectively and fairly the national security legislation for Hong Kong, respect China’s position and concerns, refrain from interfering in Hong Kong affairs in any way.”
On Wednesday, the Foreign Office summoned Chinese ambassador Liu Xiaoming to a meeting with permanent under-secretary Sir Simon McDonald.
Sir Simon is said to have told him the imposition of the legislation breaches the Sino-British Joint Declaration which aimed to smooth the transition when the territory was handed back to China in 1997.
Man ‘set to leave for UK’ held on suspicion of stabbing Hong Kong police officer
Hong Kong police have arrested a man at the city’s airport, reportedly set to leave on a London-bound flight, on suspicion of stabbing a police officer during protests over the territory’s new security law, officials said.
About 370 people were arrested during and after Wednesday’s protests against the law being imposed by China to curb activities surrounding anti-government protests that have been ongoing since June last year.
Ten were arrested on suspicion of violating the new security law, some of whom were in possession of paraphernalia that advocated Hong Kong’s independence.
The law came into effect on Tuesday night, and outlaws secessionist, subversive and terrorist acts, as well as any collusion with foreign forces when it comes to the intervening in the city’s affairs.
Our Asia editor Adam Withnall has the latest on the protests.
Australia may offer safe haven to Hong Kong residents
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison signalled on Thursday his government may follow the UK in offering visas to Hong Kong citizens after China imposed a new security law on the city.
Morrison said on Thursday that events in Hong Kong were concerning and the Australian government was “prepared to step up and provide support”.
Asked if Australia would consider offering safe haven to Hong Kong people, similar to Britain, he replied: “We are considering very actively the proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago and the final touches would be put on those and they’ll soon be considered by cabinet to provide similar opportunities.”
Morrison didn’t provide details of the proposals.
Australia’s relations with China have been strained after Canberra called for an international investigation into the source of the coronavirus.
China could stop Hong Kong residents moving to UK, admits foreign secretary
Little could be done by Britain to “coercively force” China if it tried to block Hong Kongers from coming to the UK, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said.
Up to three million residents of the former British colony have been offered the right to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship after Beijing imposed a controversial national security law.
But Dominic Raab said that if Beijing tried to stop people with British National (Overseas) status from leaving Hong Kong, there would be little that could be done by the UK.
He told ITV’s Peston programme: “Ultimately if they follow through on something like that there would be little that we could do to coercively force them.
“I wouldn’t want to be naive about this: I think we need to be realistic. But I do think that China as a rising, leading member of the international community is sensitive to the reputational risk in all of this but clearly not sufficiently that it hasn’t proceeded anyway.
“There is diplomatic leverage, there are other ways that we can persuade China not to fully implement either the national security law or some of the reprisals you talk about. But ultimately we need to be honest that we wouldn’t be able to force China to allow BN(O)s to come to the UK.”
‘Flame of freedom is precious’, says minister on Hong Kong
The “flame of freedom” is precious and Britain will do whatever is required to support the people of Hong Kong after China introduced a new security law, a junior British minister said on Thursday.
“We stand with the people of Hong Kong,” junior minister Simon Clarke told Sky News.
“The flame of freedom is very precious and we made guarantees to those people when we left Hong Kong and so we will do whatever is required that is within our power to make sure that this is upheld.”
China names new head of new Hong Kong national security committee
China’s cabinet has appointed Eric Chan as the head of the new Hong Kong national security committee, the official Xinhua News Agency reported on Thursday.
The appointment of Chan as secretary-general of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was based on a nomination by Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam, the report said.
US House passes China sanctions in response to Hong Kong law
The US House of Representatives has unanimously approved a bill that imposes sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the new national security law for Hong Kong.
The bill will punish any banks that do business with a list of senior Chinese officials involved in Hong Kong affairs, and also targets police units in Hong Kong that have clashed with protesters over the past 13 months of unrest in the city.
The bill had already passed the Senate, but now goes back to the upper house after some changes were made. The Senate could hold a second vote as early as Thursday, before the bill is sent to Donald Trump for his approval or veto.
Judges assigned to security cases not political, says Hong Kong’s chief justice
Hong Kong’s chief justice said on Thursday that judges appointed to cases under the territory’s new national security law would be appointed on the basis of judicial and professional qualities, rather than politics.
In a rare statement, Geoffrey Ma said assigning judges to cases would be the sole responsibility of the judiciary, apparently seeking to allay fears that judges for national security cases would be picked by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.
Ma said judges for national security cases would be selected on the basis of judicial and professional qualities, not political considerations.
“Judges of foreign nationality are not excluded. They are expressly permitted to be appointed as judges in Hong Kong,” Ma said.
China warns of consequences if UK offers residency to HK citizens
China said on Thursday that Britain would bear all consequences for any move it took to offer Hong Kong citizens a path to settlement in the UK.
China reserved the right to act against Britain over the issue, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing, without specifying what countermeasures Beijing might take.
A spokesperson for China’s ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said in a statement posted on the embassy’s website earlier on Thursday this would be a violation of existing agreements between the two countries.
“It is made clear … that all Chinese compatriots residing in are Chinese nationals, whether or not they are holders of the British Dependent Territories Citizens passport or the British National (Overseas) passport,” the spokesperson said.
“If the British side makes unilateral changes to the relevant practice, it will breach its own position and pledges as well as international law. We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures.”
National security law ‘Orwellian’, says Lord Patten
The last British governor of Hong Kong, Lord Patten, has been criticised what he calls “bullying and loutish” behaviour by China.
“What’s actually happened is a complete over turning of the whole concept of ‘one country, two systems’, of a high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong,” he said of the new security law.
“All that’s been scrapped and it’s been replaced by a sort of Orwellian law … straight out of 1984, which enables China to define things like sedition and secession and collusion with foreign enemies in the way it wants, and even take people on trial into mainland China.”
Taiwan advises citizens to avoid Hong Kong after new law
Taiwan citizens should avoid unnecessary transits through or visits to Hong Kong, Macau or mainland China after the passing of a new national security law for Hong Kong, a senior Taiwan government official said on Thursday.
Taiwan’s de facto consulate in Hong Kong will continue to operate, Chiu Chui-Cheng, deputy head of Taiwan’s mainland affairs council, told reporters – describing the new law as “the most outrageous in history”.
The Taiwan government said it received more than 180 inquiries from people in Hong Kong on the first day of opening new office set up to help Hong Kongers.
Japan watching situation with ‘great interest’
Japan is watching events in Hong Kong with “great interest”, its chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday.
Suga added that Japan’s close business ties with Hong Kong were based on Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” governance.
According to a report in The Japan Times, Tokyo is “caught in a dilemma” on the issue since it has been keen to improve ties with China.
The newspaper says Sino-Japanese relations have been steadily improving since both countries agreed to “shelve” territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
Arrested man ‘onboard a Cathay Pacific flight to London’
More now on the arrest of a 24-year-old man at Hong Kong’s airport early on Thursday on suspicion of stabbing an officer during protests against a new national security law.
The police had posted pictures on Twitter of an officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects”. The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, the police said. A police spokesman could not confirm whether he was leaving Hong Kong or working at the airport.
Local media, citing unnamed sources, said the suspect was onboard a Cathay Pacific flight to London due to depart around midnight. A witness said three police vehicles drove towards a gate as a Cathay Pacific plane was preparing to take off and around 10 riot police ran up the bridge to the aircraft.
The suspect held an expired British National Overseas passport, a special status created under British law in 1987 that specifically relates to Hong Kong and provides a route to citizenship, the source told local station Cable TV.
Campaigners call for investigation into whether UK-made arms being used against protesters
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has called on the UK government to end all arms sales and training for the Hong Kong police – and demanded an investigation into whether UK-made arms are currently being used against protesters.
There have been images and widespread reports of tear gas and pepper spray being used against people protesting the new security law this week.
The campaign group claims the UK has licensed £9.5m worth of arms to Hong Kong since the pro-democracy protests in 2014.
Last month The Independent revealed that the College of Policing – the professional body for police in England and Wales – has been working with the Hong Kong authorities to train its officers amid the protests.
In response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, the body refused to give any further detail on the support that was offered last year, citing an exemption over “international relations”.
Andrew Smith of CAAT said: “The images we have seen from Hong Kong have been appalling. The use of tear gas and rubber bullets must be condemned in the strongest terms.
“There must be an immediate end to all arms sales and training for the Hong Kong authorities, and a firm assurances that sales will not be resumed once the repression is out of the headlines.”
Australia to follow UK lead with ‘opportunities’ for Hong Kongers
So what exactly has Australian prime minister Scott Morrison suggested about offering visas to Hong Kong residents? Morrison said the Australian government was “prepared to step up and provide support”.
Asked if Australia would consider offering safe haven to Hong Kong people, similar to Britain, he replied: “We are considering very actively the proposals that I asked to be brought forward several weeks ago and the final touches would be put on those and they’ll soon be considered by Cabinet to provide similar opportunities.”
More here on his remarks, and current relations between China and Australia:
Can Britain afford to stand up to China over Hong Kong?
We’re expecting foreign secretary Dominic Raab to make a statement in the House of Commons later on the plan to offer almost three million residents with British National (Overseas) status a route to British citizenship.
Yet Raab has admitted little could be done by Britain to “coercively force” China if it tried to block Hong Kongers from coming to the UK. He told ITV last nigtht that “ultimately we need to be honest that we wouldn’t be able to force China to allow BN(O)s to come to the UK.”
Can the British government really afford stand up to China when there is so much at stake, economically? Our defence and security editor Kim Sengupta has taken a closer look.
China threatens ‘countermeasures’ against US sanctions bill
He urged the US to abide by international law and stop interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, and not sign a sanction bill into law.
His comments came after the US House of Representatives on Wednesday joined the Senate in approving a bill to impose sanctions on groups that undermine the city’s autonomy or restrict freedoms promised to its residents.
If the bill becomes law, “China will definitely take strong countermeasures, and all consequences will be borne by the US side,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.
“All Hong Kong compatriots, including those holding British National Overseas passports, are Chinese citizens,” Zhao said. “The British have violated their own commitment by now allowing BNO passport holders the option of staying and naturalising in the UK.”
‘Some could become very careful what they write on Whatsapp and Wechat’
Hong Kongers working in the city’s finance industry have spoken about the potential impact of the new security law.
“I was on a call with Singapore colleagues this morning when one of them asked me about the law and its impact on Hong Kong,” an executive at a regional insurance company told Reuters (declining to be identified citing the sensitivity of the matter).
“I had just started when my boss tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to move on to business matters. Later, all our team members in Hong Kong were told to strictly refrain from sharing opinion on this on calls and social media.”
A corporate lawyer with an international law firm told the news agency that it could change the way in which people in the former British colony “communicate and correspond” from now on.
“I think some people could become very careful in what they write on Whatsapp and Wechat … as a firm we are not writing anything in any correspondence like that (related to the law) but it could become an issue for some.”
Hong Kong man reportedly detained after shouting ‘long live Liverpool’
A man in a Liverpool FC shirt shouting “long live Liverpool” was briefly detained by police in Hong Kong during protests against the new security law, according to local media.
The man said he had only “felt the urge” to celebrate his team winning the Premier League, according to the report.
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