Beijing's move to approve a highly controversial security law on Hong Kong has spurred a wave of criticism and concern on the part of several world leaders, including the European Union's top chiefs.
Japan, Taiwan and the United States also denounced the law, which critics say infringes on the territory's autonomy and could be used to quash dissent.
Chinese authorities have defended the law, calling it "sword" hanging over the heads of those who endanger national security. "For the vast majority of Hong Kong residents, this law is a guardian spirit that protects their freedoms" the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said in a statement, shortly after President Xi Jinping signed it into law.
EU 'seriously concerned'
EU Council President Charles Michel said the new measure risks "undermining the rule of law," and that the council "deplores" the decision. The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, added that the bloc is now discussing any possible response measures with "international partners."
"We've made clear on several occasions, including in our direct contacts last week with the Chinese leadership, that the new legislation does not conform with Hong Kong's basic law, nor with China's international commitments," said von der Leyen. "We're seriously concerned about it."
European leaders need to send a clear economic message, ex-president of the EU Parliament Martin Schulz told DW, adding that simply appealing to China would not be enough.
Schulz said the EU could threaten China's market privileges.
"Access to the market for Chinese goods could be blocked if [China] will not respect international responsibilities and duties [it] subscribed to," added Schulz, who served as EU Parliament chief between 2012 and 2017.
The European Parliament also earlier passed a non-binding resolution urging European Union member states to adopt "sanctions and asset freezes against Chinese officials responsible for devising and implementing policies that violate human rights."
The parliament also recommended that the EU file a case with the International Court of Justice once the law was passed.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg joined the outcry, saying "It is clear that China does not share our values, democracy, freedom and the rule of law."
German MP calls out government over Hong Kong
Germany should cancel the next EU-China summit over the law, the head of the Bundestag's Human Rights Committee told DW.
Opposition lawmaker Gyde Ejnsen said that the September summit, already delayed due to pandemic-related reasons, should be scrapped altogether for "national-security-law-passing-reasons."
"It is about the fact that Beijing and the Communist Party is breaking rules, is breaking international law, and there need to be consequences," she said, adding the such summit serve as "propaganda" with the EU and Germany playing along.
Ejnsen, who represents the pro-business FDP party, criticized Germany's top diplomat Heiko Maas for wanting to proceed with the meeting.
The foreign minister "is making a grave mistake, because Germany has so far been very silent" on the law, Ejnsen told DW, adding that Chancellor Angela Merkel should put out a statement condemning the law.
UK wants to 'urgently' see the law
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson echoed that the United Kingdom was "deeply concerned."
"We will set out our response in due course," he added.
Johnson's spokesman added that the UK "urgently" needs to see the full legislation that China passed to determine whether it breached a 1984 joint declaration signed between Britain and China under which Hong Kong's autonomy, rights and freedoms would remain in place for at least 50 years.
UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said the success of Hong Kong has been built on its autonomy. "The success of Hong Kong has been built on its autonomy in the one country, two systems paradigm," he said. "This clearly is at threat if China as we now fear has enacted the legislation."
"We've been working very closely with our international partners, with the EU, the G7 and indeed we are raising the issue with likeminded partners in the United Nations Human Rights Council shortly," said Raab. "We fully intend to see through our offer on BNO [British National Overseas] passport holders in Hong Kong."
Prior to the passage of the law, the United Kingdom said it would amend immigration measures to make it easier for Hong Kong residents to move to the country, if the security law was implemented.
US ends preferential treatment
Following reports of the passage, the US enacted measures to withdraw preferential economic treatment, and announced it would bar defense exports to the territory.
"Today, the US is suspending regulations affording preferential treatment to Hong Kong over China," tweeted Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Under the new measures, the US will soon require licenses for the sale of items to the territory, that have both civilian and military uses.
"Today, the United States is ending exports of @StateDeptPM controlled US origin defense equipment and sensitive @CommerceGov controlled dual-use technologies to Hong Kong. If Beijing now treats Hong Kong as "One Country, One System," so must we," tweeted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
"The United States is forced to take this action to protect US national security,'' Pompeo said in a statement. "We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China. We cannot risk these items falling into the hands of the People's Liberation Army, whose primary purpose is to uphold the dictatorship of the CCP by any means necessary.''
No comment from Hong Kong's Lam
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, speaking at her weekly news conference, said it was not appropriate for her to comment on the new law as the meeting in Beijing was still going on. She did, however, acknowledge that there had been widespread public speculation and concern regarding the regulation, and said that she would comment once the details were revealed.
She also responded to the US move to stop preferential trade treatment for the territory.
"No sort of sanctioning action will ever scare us," Lam said. Meanwhile, the law spurred both pro-China and pro-democracy street protests around Hong Kong on Tuesday.
A 'regrettable' law
If China has passed a national security law for Hong Kong despite "deep concern among Hong Kong citizens and the international community, that would be regrettable," Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
The move "would erode the trust of the international community in the one country, two systems principle," he said.
"The one country, two system is very important for Japan as we have close economic ties and human exchanges with Hong Kong."
Taiwan offers humanitarian assistance
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said the "one country, two systems" model of governance has proven to be a failure because China abandoned its promises to maintain a high degree of autonomy for 50 years after the 1997 handover from British rule.
"It's very disappointing that China fails to keep its promises," Tsai said. "The model of 'one country, two systems' doesn't work," she said. Taiwan has routinely rejected China's plan to apply the same model to the self-governing island.
Tsai said that Taiwan had also made a plan to offer humanitarian assistance. "Our Taiwan-Hong Kong Services and Exchanges Office will open tomorrow to further facilitate humanitarian aid," said Tsai.
The new office is expected to include special services for Hong Kongers seeking opportunities to study, work or invest in Taiwan, according to a statement issued by the Mainland Affairs Council, Taiwan's top government agency on Beijing policy.
The precise wording of the security law remains a secret, but China has said it will outlaw acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
dj,lc/rs (dpa, AFP, Reuters)