BEIJING, Dec 21, 2021, The Guardian. China has accused the Australian government of “violently interfering” in its internal affairs after Australia joined with its Five Eyes allies to voice grave concerns about the “erosion of democratic elements” in Hong Kong, The Guardian reported.
Pro-Beijing candidates have been confirmed to occupy nearly every seat in Hong Kong’s new legislature after an overhaul of the electoral system that authorities said would ensure “patriots run Hong Kong”.
Elections on Sunday were marred by record low voter turnout and held 18 months after authorities began a crackdown on political dissent in the name of national security.
The Australian foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, joined with her counterparts from the US, the UK, Canada and New Zealand to say Sunday’s vote had reversed the trend of candidates with diverse political views having contested elections in Hong Kong.
They said the overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system had reduced the number of directly elected seats and established a new vetting process to severely restrict the choice of candidates on the ballot paper – which “eliminated any meaningful political opposition”.
The Five Eyes ministers said many of the city’s opposition politicians remained in prison pending trial, with others in exile overseas, while last year’s national security law was having a wider “chilling effect”. The statement said media freedoms were “being curtailed at pace”.
“Actions that undermine Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy are threatening our shared wish to see Hong Kong succeed,” said the joint statement, which was issued late on Monday.
“Protecting space for peaceful alternative views is the most effective way to ensure the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong.
“We urge the People’s Republic of China to act in accordance with its international obligations to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, including those guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”
The PRC responded by saying it “firmly opposed and strongly condemned” the joint statement, which it argued “recklessly disregarded the facts and reversed the truth”.
The Chinese embassy in Canberra said the new members of Hong Kong’s legislative council had been “elected smoothly” and it was a “crucial” moment in “the transition period of Hong Kong from chaos to stability and prosperity”.