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Beijing warns United States and ‘Five Eyes’ allies they risk having ‘eyes poked out’ for meddling in ruling on Hong Kong lawmakers

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 19/11/2020 Cheryl Heng and Jeffie Lam
An intelligence alliance made up of the United States, Britain and three other countries has issued a statement condemning Beijing’s approach to the Hong Kong legislature. Photo: Dickson Lee © SCMP An intelligence alliance made up of the United States, Britain and three other countries has issued a statement condemning Beijing’s approach to the Hong Kong legislature. Photo: Dickson Lee

China has delivered a stinging rebuke to the United States and its allies over their condemnation of a Beijing ruling that led to the immediate ousting of Hong Kong opposition lawmakers, warning they risked "having their eyes poked out".

Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian issued the counterblast on Thursday in response to demands from the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance for Beijing to reverse the decision, which effectively unseated four legislators.

The Hong Kong government in the evening also denounced the alliance's remarks as "irresponsible" and "proof of blatant interference".

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The diplomatic row erupted after China's top legislative body passed a resolution giving local authorities the power to remove politicians deemed to have engaged in a range of acts such as promoting Hong Kong independence and threatening national security.

All Hong Kong opposition lawmakers quit over Beijing resolution

The Civic Party's Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, Kwok Ka-ki and Dennis Kwok, as well as Kenneth Leung of the Professionals Guild, were unseated following the National People's Congress Standing Committee's (NPCSC) decision last week, and their remaining 15 colleagues all quit in protest.

Whether they have five or 10 eyes, they should be careful about having their eyes poked out
Zhao Lijian, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman

Under the NPCSC resolution, lawmakers can be summarily ousted without involving the city's courts or employing the existing constitutionally mandated procedure for unseating Legco members.

Speaking in Beijing, Zhao strongly objected to the joint statement from the so-called Five Eyes alliance, which is also made up of Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

"Whether they have five or 10 eyes, they should be careful about having their eyes poked out if they dare to jeopardise the country's sovereignty, safety and development interests," he said.

Zhao also defended the "lawful, reasonable and unchallengeable" resolution by citing the idiom that "the proof of the pudding is in the eating".

"In Chinese, we also have a similar saying which suggests you can only know if your shoes fit after trying them on," he said, adding it was "basic political ethics" around the world to require public officers to pledge allegiance to their country.

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A spokesman for the Commissioner's Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong also weighed in on Thursday, stressing that the country's top legislative body had the "indisputable authority" to unseat the four politicians.

"No single country will ever allow people engaged in collusion with foreign forces, subversion of state power or secession to serve as lawmakers at the local level," he said.

Echoing the sentiment, the city's administration also said in a statement: "The HKSAR government yet again solemnly reminds the international community that foreign governments should stop their scaremongering and interfering in any form in the internal affairs of the HKSAR."

The backlash came within hours of the alliance accusing Beijing of unseating the Hong Kong lawmakers as part of a campaign to silence dissenting voices.

"We urge the Chinese central authorities to reconsider their actions against Hong Kong's elected legislature and immediately reinstate the Legislative Council members," the foreign ministers of the five countries said in a statement.

"China's action is a clear breach of its international obligations under the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration.

"It breaches both China's commitment that Hong Kong will enjoy a 'high degree of autonomy', and the right to freedom of speech."

The disqualification rules were "part of a concerted campaign to silence all critical voices" following the one-year postponement of the Legco elections in September on public health grounds, prosecutions against a number of elected lawmakers and actions taken to undermine media freedom, the alliance added.

Alvin Yeung et al. sitting at a table in a suit and tie: The four disqualified lawmakers are (from left) Dennis Kwok, Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung. Photo: Dickson Lee © Provided by South China Morning Post The four disqualified lawmakers are (from left) Dennis Kwok, Alvin Yeung, Kwok Ka-ki and Kenneth Leung. Photo: Dickson Lee

Earlier last week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo registered his disapproval of the NPCSC decision the day after it was passed on November 11, in which he accused Beijing of eroding Hong Kong's freedoms.

The Hong Kong government at the time issued a statement accusing unspecified foreign countries of having "double standards" and questioning their political motives in seeking to undermine the city's relationship with mainland China.

Rejecting international criticism over the resolution last week, China's foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the status of Hong Kong lawmakers was an internal affair. Other countries had no "qualification" to make allegations against China, he added.

Separately, the British ambassador to China, Caroline Wilson, declared Beijing's imposition in June of a sweeping national security law a direct breach of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

"The UK has a unique obligation to Hong Kong," Wilson told the Financial Times on Tuesday.

"Yet, with the implementation of the national security law, it has violated Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy and its executive, legislation and independent judicial powers as stipulated in the Joint Declaration.

"This has an undeniable impact on our bilateral relations."

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This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

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