U.S. markets closed

US and China clash over Hong Kong laws at closed UN meeting

EDITH M. LEDERER
A man sits on the waterfront of the Victoria Harbor of Hong Kong Tuesday, May 26, 2020. Hong Kong has been living on borrowed time ever since the British made it a colony nearly 180 years ago, and all the more so after Beijing took control in 1997, granting it autonomous status. A national security law approved by China's legislature Thursday is a reminder that the city's special status is in the hands of Communist Party leaders who have spent decades building their own trade and financial centers to take Hong Kong's place. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States and United Kingdom clashed with China and Russia over Beijing’s new national security law for Hong Kong during closed Security Council discussions on Friday that reflected increasing U.S.-China tensions.

Diplomats said China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun accused the U.S. and UK of meddling in the country’s internal affairs and making baseless accusations that the law risks curtailing freedoms guaranteed in the December 1984 Sino-British agreement that led to the 1997 handover of the British colony to China. He called the U.S. the “troublemaker” of the world and told council members not to make China “the enemy,” they said.

Zhang also asked what the U.S. would do if China wanted the council to discuss the situation in Minneapolis where an unarmed black man, George Floyd, died after a white policeman knelt on his neck, the diplomat said.

U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft responded that every country has its difficulties and grievances but the difference is that the United Stated is a democracy with the rule of law where people can protest and have democratic rights, which isn’t the case in China, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions were closed.

While the Floyd case was not mentioned in Tweets and statements issued by both sides after the council discussion, the issues the U.S. and Chinese ambassadors raised were.

China’s U.N. Mission tweeted: “What deserves the world’s attention: US failure to honor its int’l obligations & commitment, US failure to address its racial discrimination, US failure to protect its migrants & their children, US failure to protect its people against gun violence.”

Ambassador Craft said in tweets that she urged council members “to confront China’s empty promise to the people of Hong Kong and the UK.”

“Beijing’s recent actions threaten Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and implicate international peace & security,” and “contradict” its obligations under the Sino-British agreement which is registered at the United Nations, she said.

The United States calls on the Security Council and all 193 U.N. member states to join in demanding that China “reverse course and honor its obligation to this institution & Hong Kong’s people,” Craft tweeted.

China blocked the United States and United Kingdom from holding an open meeting on Hong Kong, so they raised the national security laws in the “any other business”session at the end of Friday’s council meeting, a procedure which allows the 15 council members to raise other issues in closed discussions.

China’s U.N. Mission tweeted that the U.S. and UK effort to formally discuss the Hong Kong issue “failed” because there was “no agreement” and “strong opposition” from members of the Security Council.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky tweeted that Washington and London’s “awkward move was not supported by clear majority of council members,” adding that “divisive, biased issues which have nothing to do with intl peace & security shouldn’t be brought up” in the council.

During closed consultations, diplomats said, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia also raised the Minneapolis incident and the Black Lives Matter movement, and alleged that the West has shipped neo-Nazi Ukrainian provocateurs to Hong Kong, saying Moscow has video evidence.

Britain’s acting U.N. ambassador, Jonathan Allen, said the U.K. raised Hong Kong because the national security legislation “risks curtailing the freedoms that China has undertaken to uphold” and if implemented “will exacerbate the existing deep divisions in Hong Kong society.”

“We hope the Chinese government will pause and reflect on the serious and legitimate concerns this proposal has raised both within Hong Kong and around the world,” he said.