China Hits Out at Foreign Interference Over Hong Kong After Pompeo Attack

The Chinese government has again warned foreign nations not to meddle in its internal affairs amid international condemnation of a new national security law that effectively criminalizes anti-government dissent in Hong Kong.

The law was adopted Tuesday despite ongoing protests in the former British colony. The past year has seen Hong Kong crippled by mass unrest as residents protest against Chinese encroachment on the semi-autonomous city. Activists may now face extradition to China and life imprisonment if they continue their fight for democracy and government accountability in Hong Kong.

The new law prohibits broadly the defined offenses of secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion. China has sought to frame the year of protests as an extremist movement instigated by foreign actors—particularly the U.S.—and has said it will brook no interference in the region.

Chinese missions in the U.K. and New Zealand hit out at their host countries on Thursday. The U.K. administered Hong Kong as a colony until 1997, and has been at the forefront of international protests against the national security law and Beijing's uncompromising response to the year of protests.

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the U.K. would open a pathway to U.K. residency for some 3 million people in Hong Kong with British National Overseas status—a type of British nationality that is a hangover from the territory's colonial past and gives holders visa-free access to the U.K. for six months.

The Chinese embassy in the U.K. quickly condemned the plan. Ambassador Liu Xiaoming said British criticism of the national security law was "irresponsible and unwarranted" and suggested the residency offer to Hong Kongers would "breach its own position and pledges as well as international law."

"We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures," he said in a statement posted on the embassy's website. "The UK has no sovereignty, jurisdiction or right of 'supervision' over Hong Kong."

The Chinese embassy in New Zealand, meanwhile, criticized the country's Foreign Minister Winston Peters for expressing his "deep disappointment" over the national security law. In response, the embassy said it "firmly" opposes "any external interference in Hong Kong affairs," The New Zealand Herald reported.

It urged the New Zealand government "to respect China's sovereignty, abide by international laws and basic norms of international relations, stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs, and do more to promote the sound and steady development of the China-New Zealand relations."

The defensive statements came hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched his latest attack on China over Hong Kong. The U.S. has been leading the international response to the crisis, and has now imposed sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials accused of undermining Hong Kong's autonomy.

President Donald Trump's administration has also announced it will rescind Hong Kong's special status that gave the territory preferential trading rights.

Pompeo said Wednesday that the new legislation is "outrageous and an affront to all nations." He added: "Free Hong Kong was one of the world's most stable, prosperous and dynamic cities. Now, now it will be just another Communist-run city where people will be subject to the party elites' whims."

China, Hong Kong, Mike Pompeo, foreign, interference
Riot police detain a man after they cleared protesters taking part in a rally against a new national security law in Hong Kong on July 1, 2020. DALE DE LA REY/AFP via Getty Images/Getty