The first day of this year’s legislative session for the National People’s Congress in China has already sparked protests as the country weighs new measures on Hong Kong. The US has already voiced its opposition to the change. And the increasing tensions between the two world powers could be what is behind a new push for an increase to China’s military budget.
Washington is already condemning the proposal, hours after Beijing unveiled its plan to impose stricter national security measures on Hong Kong, which would specifically target acts of treason and sedition…
Protests broke out in the Hong Kong Legislative Council as the proposal was sent to the National People’s Congress in mainland China for their approval. Two legislators were even dragged out of the chamber, after they voiced their opposition, and argued that the new law would take away vital freedom granted under the “one country, two systems” policy.
Protesters were also seen in the streets, marking one of the first demonstrations since a mass lockdown due to the coronavirus put an end to months of protests, which demonstrators said were meant to prevent China from increasing its power over the territory. While the latest proposal is seen as Beijing’s response to last year’s protests, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry argued the goal is to crackdown on foreign interference.
“The national security law’s legislation on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is purely China’s internal affair and no foreign country has the right to intervene. The Chinese government is determined in safeguarding national sovereignty, security, and development interests, following through the policy of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and opposing any external interference in Hong Kong affairs,” said Zhao Lijian.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Friday that she supports the proposal, and she disagrees with those who believe the new restrictions would take away the rights and freedoms of the citizens. But while the proposal may have the support of some leaders in Hong Kong, it does not* have the support of leaders in the US.
In a statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its international obligations, and respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law.”
The Trump Administration has been unwavering in its support for the protests in Hong Kong, even at times when the clashes became violent. Some protesters were even seen waving American flags, and calling for the US to liberate Hong Kong. The Trump Administration responded by signing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law, which gives the State Department the power to assess whether the territory is maintaining enough autonomy to continue its trade relationship with the US.
Beijing is also expected to announce legislation that would increase China’s military budget amid increasing tensions with the United States.
In addition to public disputes over trade and the origins of the coronavirus, the US has continued to increase relations with Taiwan, and US warships have increased their presence and US bombers have nearly tripled their flights over the South and East China Seas this year. But even if China does increase defense spending, it still won’t be anywhere near Washington’s more than $700 billion-dollar budget.