WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Nearly 200 political figures from around the world on Saturday decried Beijing’s proposed national security laws for Hong Kong, including 17 members of the U.S. Congress, as international tensions grow over the proposal to set up Chinese government intelligence bases in the territory.
In a joint statement organized by former Hong Kong Governor Christopher Patten and former British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, 186 law and policy leaders said the proposed laws are a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms” and “flagrant breach” of the Sino-British Joint Declaration that returned Hong Kong to China in 1997.
“If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take its word on other matters,” they wrote.
The legislation comes as the relationship between Washington and Beijing frays, with U.S. President Donald Trump blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. officials have said the Chinese legislation would be bad for the economies of both Hong Kong and China and could jeopardize the territory’s special status in U.S. law. China has dismissed other countries’ complaints as meddling.
Some of Trump’s fellow Republicans – Senator Marco Rubio, acting chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Senator Ted Cruz – signed the statement. Democratic signatories included Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Representatives Eliot Engel, head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Adam Schiff, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
Forty-four members of Britain’s House of Commons and eight members of its House of Lords also signed the statement, alongside figures from across Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; writing by Lisa Lambert; editing by Jonathan Oatis)