Beijing accuses Pompeo of using ‘democracy’ bill to blackmail Hong Kong govt

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is using self-described human rights legislation to put pressure on the Hong Kong government and threaten China’s sovereignty, Beijing has claimed.

Pompeo is “blackmailing” the semi-autonomous city with the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Office of the Commissioner to Hong Kong said on Thursday. He added that China was not intimidated by Washington’s political maneuvering and that Beijing would protect its national interests from all foreign threats.

Signed into law in November 2019, the act requires the State Department to audit Hong Kong’s level of “autonomy” annually. The legislation calls for sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials if Washington determines that human rights are not being respected by the city.

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The Secretary of State signaled on Wednesday that he was still assessing whether the situation in Hong Kong would warrant sanctions. Claiming that activists at the forefront of months-long anti-China demonstrations were being “hauled into court,” Pompeo said that it was “difficult to assess that Hong Kong remains highly autonomous from mainland China.”

Washington has shown vocal support for the violent protests that have rocked Hong Kong since March of last year. The issue has further exacerbated strained relations between the US and China, which have hit a new low amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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