China’s President Xi Jinping warned members of the National People’s Congress on Tuesday it was necessary for China to step up preparations for armed combat, “to improve our military’s ability to perform military missions” without referencing Hong Kong specifically.
China’s top military commander in Hong Kong, Major-General Chen Daoxiang, told state media on Tuesday that up to 10,000 soldiers were determined to enforce the national security legislation.
On Wednesday, democracy leaders in Hong Kong chanted “Hong Kong independence, the only way out” and accused Beijing of unilaterally scrapping the “one country, two systems” approach. They warned the legislation would put foreigners, including 100,000 Australian expats, at risk of being targeted by China’s opaque judicial system.
Reuters reported on Wednesday the new laws would also block foreign judges from hearing national security trials. Foreign judges have historically tied Hong Kong’s judicial system to Western common law traditions.
Joshua Wong, the secretary-general of the pro-democracy party Demosistō, urged the United States, the European Union and other world leaders to impose sanctions on China “as the only effective strategic option to send a warning signal to Beijing”.
“If China’s flagrant breach of Joint Declaration, a legally binding international treaty at the UN, is tolerated, it will set a bad precedent to all other treaties and agreements alike,” he said.
European Union President Charles Michel said he was preparing a strategy to negotiate with China ahead of a summit between Beijing and all EU member states in June.
“We are not naive about Chinese behaviour at the international level,” he said after a video meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
“We attach a great importance to the preservation of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy in line with the basic law and international commitments. We are in permanent dialogue with the Chinese authorities to express our opinions.”
China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday it would take countermeasures to prevent foreign interference in the laws.
The remarks came ahead of an expected response this week from the White House over the new legislation.
“We’re doing something now,” US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday. “I think you’ll find it very interesting.”
US lawmakers have floated removing Hong Kong’s special economic status, potentially exposing its economy to tariffs levied by Washington on China.
Any shift in status could also hit Australian companies. Australian businesses have more than $75 billion invested in Hong Kong.
Eryk Bagshaw is the China correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Due to travel restrictions, he is currently based in Parliament House in Canberra.