US mission to the UN accuses China of 'exploiting COVID-19' to distract from abuses in Hong Kong as tensions boil over

US mission to the UN accuses China of 'exploiting COVID-19' to distract from abuses in Hong Kong as tensions boil over
Eugene Hoshiko/Getty Images; Reuters
  • The US mission to the UN accused China of exploiting the world's preoccupation with the spread of the new coronavirus to further erode Hong Kong's freedoms.
  • Tensions between the US and China are escalating over China's move to unilaterally impose national security laws onto Hong Kong.
  • In a statement on Wednesday, the US called out China's aggressive actions as a matter of global security and called for a virtual meeting of the UN Security Council.
  • In response, China's mission to the UN refused the US request to convene a UNSC meeting, calling the US "the trouble maker of the world."

The US mission to the UN accused China of "exploiting COVID-19" to distract from abuses in Hong Kong as tensions boil over China's move to unilaterally impose national security laws onto Hong Kong.

The new draft proposal, which will likely target secession, subversion, and foreign interference in Hong Kong, is expected to be passed at China's National People's Congress on Thursday.

In a statement on Wednesday, the US called out China's aggressive actions as a matter of global security and called for a virtual meeting of the UN Security Council.
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"The United States is deeply concerned by actions taken by [China's government] that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and freedoms," the US mission said in a statement. "This is a matter of urgent global concern that implicates international peace and security and warrants the immediate attention of the UN Security Council."

Hong Kong operated under British colonial rule for more than 150 years, and the UK signed an UN-registered bilateral treaty called the Sino-British Joint Declaration in 1984, promising to uphold certain freedoms in Hong Kong when it handed over sovereignty of the territory to China. The treaty also promised to uphold the "one country, two systems," which guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy.

The US mission said China was "not behaving as a responsible UN member state" and said its actions "threaten Hong Kong's democratic institutions and civil liberties."
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In a series of tweets, the US mission said China was exploiting the world's preoccupation with the spread of the new coronavirus to erode Hong Kong's freedoms.

"The [Chinese Communist Party] believes it can exploit COVID-19 to distract from its assault on Hong Kong & its people. This, coupled w/ its epidemic coverup & mismanagement, human rights violations & unlawful actions in the South China Sea, is not the behavior of a responsible @UN member," the US mission to the UN said. "We call on [China] to stop fearing transparency and international accountability, end its empty promises, and immediately reverse course and honor the Sino-British Joint Declaration," the mission added.
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China's mission to the UN refused the US request to convene a UNSC meeting, calling the US "the trouble maker of the world."

"China categorically rejects the baseless request of the US for a Security Council meeting," China's mission said in a series of tweets. "Legislation on national security for Hong Kong is purely China's internal affairs. It has nothing to do with the mandate of the Security Council."

"Facts prove again and again that the US is the trouble maker of the world," China continued.
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Tensions with China are flaring up

US mission to the UN accuses China of 'exploiting COVID-19' to distract from abuses in Hong Kong as tensions boil over
People seen running away from tear gas which fired by police during the anti national security bill demonstration on May 24, 2020.Alda Tsang / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Tensions between China and the US are on the upswing in response to China's new push towards enforcing national security laws in Hong Kong.

The aggressive move by China has prompted thousands to take to the streets in Hong Kong, resulting in police officers firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray onto crowds.
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On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicated that Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" agreement was no longer being upheld, and hinted that the measure could lead to US sanctions.

"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," Pompeo said in a statement.

Last year, the US enacted the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a law requiring the State Department to ensure that Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" agreement with China is upheld each year. The law also requires the US government to impose sanctions against those responsible for human-rights abuses in Hong Kong.
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On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping urged his army to increase its preparedness for "armed combat" and improve the military's ability to carry out missions. The comments came as China announced a 6.6% spending increase to its national defense budget.

Wendy Cutler, former acting deputy US trade representative and current vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, told Business Insider that tensions between China and the US "are on the upswing" and suggests that the US might soon take action. "The shoe will soon drop with respect to what concrete actions the US will take in response to Secretary Pompeo's announcement on Hong Kong," she said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the Trump Administration starts with tariff actions by subjecting US imports from Hong Kong to the China tariff hikes."
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