China to the “Five-eyes Alliance”: Be careful to have your eyes poked.

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Communist China has rejected criticism by the Five Eyes alliance of its Hong Kong crackdown on democracy, saying it “should face up to the reality” that the former British colony has been returned to China.

China’s highest legislative body last week disqualified four sitting  “unpatriotic” legislators and the move prompted the entire pro-democracy caucus to announce their resignation.

Australia was the first to condemn Beijing’s crackdown and its violations of international law to secure Hong Kong’s autonomy. Canberra went on to anger Beijing further by going into a military pact with Japan over the weekend when Prime Minister Scott Morrison met with his Japanese counterpart in Tokyo.

This week, Chinese diplomats in Canberra gave a list of 14 grievances to Nine newspapers this week:

1) Chinese foreign investment proposals rejected on national security grounds.

2) Banning Huawei and ZTE from the 5G network.

3) Foreign interference legislation.

4) Stigmatising Chinese-Australian interactions, especially university interactions.

5) Calling for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID-19.

6) Australian comment on Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

7) Australia’s statement to the UN on the South China Sea.

8) Spreading disinformation about China’s efforts to contain COVID-19.

9) Legislation to scrutinise Beijing’s agreements with state governments, especially Victoria’s agreement on the Belt and Road Initiative.

10) Providing funding to an anti-China think tank (though unnamed, this is presumably the Australian Strategic Policy Institute).

11) Recent raids on Chinese journalists’ homes in Sydney.

12) Allegations that China engages in cyber-attacks.

13) “Outrageous” condemnations of the Communist Party by MPs, as well as racist attacks against Chinese and Asian people.

14) Unfriendly or antagonistic reports on China by Australian media.

China claims that the Morrison Government is solely to blame for deteriorating relations between Beijing and Canberra, while scolding Australia and its Five Eyes intelligence partners for criticism over the erosion of democratic norms in Hong Kong.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian was responding to a statement on Hong Kong issued by the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which together make up an intelligence partnership known as the Five Eyes.

“No matter if they have five eyes or 10 eyes, if they dare to harm China’s sovereignty, security and development interests, they should beware of their eyes being poked and blinded,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.

“The Chinese people will not provoke troubles, but we never flinch when trouble comes our way,” Zhao said.

The text of the joint statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, as follows:

We, the Foreign Ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, and the United States Secretary of State, reiterate our serious concern regarding China’s imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong. Following the imposition of the National Security Law and postponement of September’s Legislative Council elections, this decision further undermines Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms.

China’s action is a clear breach of its international obligations under the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. It breaches both China’s commitment that Hong Kong will enjoy a ‘high degree of autonomy’, and the right to freedom of speech.

The disqualification rules appear part of a concerted campaign to silence all critical voices following the postponement of September’s Legislative Council elections, the imposition of charges against a number of elected legislators, and actions to undermine the freedom of Hong Kong’s vibrant media.

We call on China to stop undermining the rights of the people of Hong Kong to elect their representatives in keeping with the Joint Declaration and Basic Law. For the sake of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, it is essential that China and the Hong Kong authorities respect the channels for the people of Hong Kong to express their legitimate concerns and opinions.

As a leading member of the international community, we expect China to live up to its international commitments and its duty to the people of Hong Kong. We urge the Chinese central authorities to re-consider their actions against Hong Kong’s elected legislature and immediately reinstate the Legislative Council members.

By Winnie Troppie

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