China says Canada, Five Eyes allies’ call for Hong Kong elections ‘neglects facts’

More anti-Beijing critics arrested under Hong Kong security law
The Chinese government is seemingly taking further steps to quash the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, by arresting more of Beijing's critics, including media mogul Jimmy Lai and young democracy activist Agnes Chow. As Redmond Shannon reports, it comes as relations worsen between China and the West, including Canada.

The Chinese Embassy in Canada is pushing back after Canada and its Five Eyes allies called on Hong Kong to reinstate disqualified candidates and hold its elections as soon as possible.

In a statement issued Monday, the embassy said the countries’ comments regarding Hong Kong were “unwarranted” and “grossly interfered” with China’s internal affairs.

Read more: ‘Gravely concerned’: Canada, Five Eyes allies call on Hong Kong to hold elections

“This ill intended statement is full of prejudice and arrogance, and it neglects facts and truth, applies double standards, interferes in China’s internal affairs and seriously violates international law and basic norms governing international relations,” the statement reads.

“It will only undermine ‘One Country, Two Systems,’ damage the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents in accordance with law.”

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Trump administration condemns China for delaying elections in Hong Kong
Trump administration condemns China for delaying elections in Hong Kong

In a joint statement on Sunday, the foreign affairs ministers of Canada, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Britain said they were “gravely concerned” by the Hong Kong government’s “unjust disqualification of candidates and disproportionate postponement of Legislative Council elections.”

Last month, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced the Sept. 6 election for seats in the city’s legislature would be postponed for a year due to a spike in cases of the novel coronavirus.

The opposition was hoping to win a historic majority in the Legislative Council, where only half the seats are directly elected and the other half filled mostly by pro-Beijing appointees.

Twelve pro-democracy candidates were also disqualified from running, for reasons including perceived subversive intentions, opposition to China’s new security law and campaigning to win a legislation-blocking majority.

U.S. imposes sanctions on Hong Kong officials, including Carrie Lam
U.S. imposes sanctions on Hong Kong officials, including Carrie Lam
The allies said the moves “undermined the democratic process that has been fundamental to Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.”

In a tweet accompanying the statement, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Canada joins its “like-minded partners to express grave concerns regarding the erosion of rights in Hong Kong.”

In a statement emailed to Global News on Monday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said China “deplores and rejects the joint statement on Hong Kong by the foreign ministers of the Five eyes.”

“It is another evidence of their interference in China’s international affairs and Hong Kong Legislative Council election,” he said. “China has made stern representations with the relevant countries.”

The Chinese Embassy said the decision to postpone the election “in the face of the raging pandemic” was “(a) justified and necessary step to ensure people’s safety and health and a safe, fair and just election.”

And, according to the statement, the disqualified nominees’ “words and deeds have challenged the limits of the law.”

Read more: Facebook live captures arrest of Jimmy Lai by Hong Kong police

But the Five Eyes foreign ministers also expressed “deep concern” over Beijing’s imposition of the new National Security Law, saying it is “eroding the Hong Kong people’s fundamental rights and liberties.”

Under the new sweeping legislation imposed last month, anyone who takes part in secessionist activities — either organizing or participating — will be in violation of the law, regardless of whether violence is used.

Hong Kong police said they have arrested at least nine people between the ages of 23 and 72 on suspicion of violating the law, with offences including collusion with a foreign country and conspiracy to defraud.

Earlier on Monday, media tycoon Jimmy Lai was arrested as police searched the headquarters of his Next Digital group, carting away boxes of what they said was evidence.

The police action marked the first time the law was used against news media, stoking fears that authorities are suppressing press freedom.

Next Digital operates Apple Daily, a feisty pro-democracy tabloid that often condemns China’s Communist Party government.

Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam delays election for 1 year, cites COVID-19 as reasoning
Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam delays election for 1 year, cites COVID-19 as reasoning

But the Chinese Embassy maintained the country’s stance that the new national security legislation has “plugged the legal loopholes in Hong Kong.”

“The legislation protects the safety, rights and freedoms of the vast majority of the Hong Kong residents enjoyed in accordance with law,” the statement reads.

Read more: U.S. sanctions Hong Kong officials, including government leader Carrie Lam

Since its imposition, the new legislation has garnered international condemnation, and each of the Five Eyes countries have ended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong in response.

Further, last week, the U.S. imposed sanctions against Carrie Lam and 10 other officials.

—With files from Reuters and The Associated Press