China national security bill 'a death knell' for Hong Kong freedoms: Pompeo

Chinese plans to tighten legal control over Hong Kong represents “a death knell” for the former British colony’s relative independence from the mainland regime, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“The decision to bypass Hong Kong’s well-established legislative processes and ignore the will of the people of Hong Kong would be a death knell for the high degree of autonomy Beijing promised for Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a U.N.-filed agreement,” Pompeo said Friday.

Hong Kong has functioned as a capitalist society for decades, in keeping with the 1984 pact between the United Kingdom and China that paved the way for Hong Kong’s handover in 1997. China has been undermining the global trading center’s autonomy in recent years, according to U.S. officials and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, culminating in the unveiling this week of legislation that could allow Beijing to restrict dissent on the grounds that it threatens national security.

“We can no longer allow acts like desecrating national flags or defacing of the national emblem in Hong Kong,” a mainland Chinese source told the South China Morning Post.

The national security legislation comes in the wake of a political crisis that gripped Hong Kong throughout 2020, as millions of protesters took to the streets in opposition to extradition legislation that would have enabled mainland authorities to take custody of Hong Kong residents based on flimsy evidence.

“The Basic Law states clearly that the authority to advance [national security] legislation rests with the executive and legislative branches of the Hong Kong government and not with Beijing,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican, said Thursday evening. “The United States will stand resolute in its support of the Hong Kong people. These developments are of grave concern to the United States and could lead to a significant reassessment on U.S. policy towards Hong Kong.”