China’s embassy in Ottawa has slammed a joint statement from the Western countries which form the Five Eyes intelligence alliance condemning the postponement of legislative elections in Hong Kong and expressing concerns over the city’s national security law.
In a statement on Monday, the embassy accused the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and the US of interfering in the city, where the government has delayed September’s Legislative Council elections until next year, citing Covid-19 concerns.
“The statement made by Canadian and other foreign ministers ignored the facts, harboured ulterior motives and toyed with double standards, interfered in China’s internal affairs, and was full of arrogance and prejudice, seriously violating international law and the basic norms of international relations,” the embassy said.
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The joint statement was issued on Sunday by the Five Eyes foreign ministers and raised concerns about the Hong Kong government’s “unjust disqualification” of opposition candidates and “disproportionate postponement” of the elections, which have now been set for September 5 next year.
They called for elections to be held “as soon as possible” and for disqualified candidates to be reinstated. The foreign ministers also expressed “deep concern” that the national security law would erode Hongkongers’ rights and freedoms.
The Chinese embassy in Ottawa – which has been notably aggressive in countering criticism of Beijing, in what has been called Wolf Warrior diplomacy – said “these actions will only undermine ‘one country, two systems’ and harm the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents”.
Western countries have been increasingly vocal after the decision by the city’s embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to invoke emergency powers in late July delaying the September election one day after disqualification of 12 opposition candidates.
It followed Beijing’s imposition of a national security law in Hong Kong, which took effect just before July 1 and sparked international concerns of an erosion of freedoms in the city under its one country, two systems model of semi-autonomy.
The Ottawa embassy’s statement defended the national security law – which bars acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces – as necessary to ensure the stability of Hong Kong under one country, two systems.
It also said the Hong Kong elections had been postponed for public health reasons and to “safeguard the safety and fairness of the elections”, adding that the disqualifications of candidates had been lawful.
The embassy statement was issued on Monday morning, soon after Hong Kong police arrested outspoken media mogul Jimmy Lai Chee-ying and several others under the national security law, before raiding the offices of Lai’s tabloid-style Apple Daily.
The Five Eyes is the world’s oldest intelligence alliance, and tensions between Beijing and the bloc have grown increasingly fraught as confrontation between China and the US has deepened across multiple fronts.
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