US Vice President Mike Pence has described China’s new national security law covering Hong Kong as a betrayal of an international agreement.
Politicians in the US and UK have condemned the legislation, which was introduced earlier this week, as an attempt by Beijing to crack down on dissent in Hong Kong.
“The national security law that China passed and now is imposing on Hong Kong is a… betrayal of the international agreement that they signed, and ultimately it’s unacceptable to freedom-loving people around the world,” Pence told CNBC.
Pence was referring to the agreement made when the city was returned to Chinese control in 1997, which stated that it would be governed under a “one country, two systems” framework affording it more freedoms that mainland China.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have said the law intended to clamp down on a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights or freedoms. But critics fear it will crush the financial hub’s pro-democracy movement and curb freedoms including its independent judiciary and right to protest.
Demonstrators have taken to the streets following the passing of the new legislation, with local police making hundreds of arrests.
The UK government has offered almost 3m Hong Kong citizens with British National Overseas passports the chance to settle in the UK, but Beijing has firmly rebuffed the move.
The Chinese embassy in London said today that it “firmly opposes” the move, saying it breaches international law.
A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry said that Beijing reserves the right to take action against the UK on the offer of a path to citizenship for 2.9m citizens, but did not specify what form this action could take.