After Australia and its Five Eyes allies expressed significant worries about the “erosion of democratic elements” in Hong Kong, China accused Australia of “violently interfering” in its domestic affairs.
After a reform of the voting system that officials claimed would ensure “patriots control Hong Kong,” pro-Beijing candidates have been confirmed to take nearly every seat in Hong Kong’s new legislature.
Elections were held on Sunday, 18 months after authorities began a crackdown on political dissent in the name of national security, and were plagued by record low voter turnout.
Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign affairs minister joined her counterparts from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand in praising Sunday’s vote, claiming that it had reversed the trend of candidates with opposing political views contesting elections in Hong Kong.
They said that the reorganisation of Hong Kong’s electoral system had lowered the number of directly elected seats and instituted a new vetting process that significantly limited the number of candidates on the ballot – effectively “eliminating any real political opposition.”
Many of the city’s opposition figures remained in prison pending trial, with others in exile abroad, according to the Five Eyes ministers, while last year’s national security law was having a wider “chilling effect.” According to the declaration, media liberties are “being limited at a rapid pace.”
“Actions that jeopardise Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms, and high level of autonomy endanger our shared desire to see Hong Kong flourish,” the joint statement stated late Monday.
“The most efficient method to ensure Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity is to protect space for peaceful alternative viewpoints.”
“We urge the People’s Republic of China to uphold protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, particularly those guaranteed by the Sino-British Joint Declaration, in accordance with its international duties.”
The PRC responded by stating that it “seriously opposes and strongly condemns” the joint statement, claiming that it “recklessly disregarded the facts and reversed the truth.”
The new members of Hong Kong’s legislative council were “smoothly elected,” according to the Chinese embassy in Canberra, and it was a “crucial” milestone in “the transition era of Hong Kong from chaos to stability and prosperity.”