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West tightens grip on China over the crackdown in Hong Kong
Asia Pacific Focus

West tightens grip on China over the crackdown in Hong Kong

Western countries have condemned China’s actions against the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong 

China has been facing massive criticism over its crackdown on pro-democracy lawmakers and activists in Hong Kong in the first week of January. On January 10, the foreign ministers of countries like the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada issued a joint statement, raising their concerns over the arrest of 55 pro-democracy figures for subversion under the territory’s seven-month-old National Security Law.

In the statement, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Canada’s (former) Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and, (former) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the action taken by Beijing to detain pro-democracy activists and lawmakers on January 6. All four foreign ministers had asserted that the law is being used to oppose political views and eliminate dissent. They also termed the arrests a “clear breach” of the Sino-British joint declaration. 

The ministers called on the Chinese government and Hong Kong authorities to respect the legally guaranteed rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong without arrest and detention. They further called for including candidates of all political opinions in the postponed legislative elections of the territory. In addition to these four countries, the European Union also demanded the immediate release of the arrested activists. The bloc also stated that it is looking at possibilities to impose more sanctions on Beijing.

Responding to the joint statement, the Hong Kong government accused the four countries of “interfering” in the internal affairs of China. 

The 1997 Sino-British joint declaration was signed in 1984 between the UK and China, ending Britain’s century-and-a-half long rule over Hong Kong and its transition under Chinese sovereignty. With the signing of the declaration, Hong Kong received its rights and freedoms under the “one country, two systems” policy. As per the mini-constitution of Hong Kong, the territory has been guaranteed certain autonomous rights and freedoms for at least 50 years until 2047.

However, in recent years, China has violated Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy by intervening in the territory’s internal affairs. 

Taking cognizance of the plight of Hong Kongers, world governments and international institutions have condemned China’s painful actions in the territory.

It is important to note that thousands of Hong Kongers have fled their hometown and moved to the United Kingdom and other countries since the implementation of the National Security Law in June 2020. While some are leaving due to the fear of punishment for their support to pro-democracy protests, others are fleeing in search of a better future for their children. 

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Now, the UK is offering visas to Hong Kong citizens as a potential route towards citizenship in the wake of Beijing’s crackdown. With this move, more people are expected to leave Hong Kong in search of better future prospects.

Meanwhile, China has stated that it would not recognize special British National Overseas (BNO) passports being offered to former Hong Kong residents.

South Korea eyes peace with the North in partnership with the US
Asia Pacific Focus

South Korea eyes peace with the North in partnership with the US

As Biden takes office, South Korea’s Moon seeks to renew North Korea-US talks for inter-Korea peace

The US-South Korea alliance has grown into a crucial partnership in the world order after seven decades of diplomatic relations. With new geopolitical realities, the partnership has entered into its eighth decade under a new administration led by US President Joe Biden

Notably, the Washington-Seoul alliance faced increasing tensions under the Trump administration as the former US President undermined the partnership between the two countries. In the four years of his presidency, Trump consistently bullied South Korea on various security, military, and economic issues by levying tariffs and threatening Seoul for more funds for the deployment of US troops. Trump’s catastrophic trade war with China harmed South Korea’s export and trade relations with its biggest trading partner Beijing.

However, Trump’s restless efforts to bring down Seoul could not hamper the US-South Korea partnership as it enters a new horizon under the Biden administration. South Korean President Moon Jae-in congratulated Biden on his inauguration by saying that America is back and its new beginning will make democracy even greater.

Taking a sigh of relief after Biden’s victory, Moon Jae-in called on the new US President to renew dialogue with North Korea with the broader aim of denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

But, it is going to be a difficult task for Moon to get Biden to agree with him on handling North Korea’s issue, noting the differences in their approaches. While it is necessary for Moon to ensure inter-Korean peace before his five-year term ends next year, it will not be possible without Biden’s support, who has said that he would not meet the North Korean leader without preconditions. The US President also called Kim Jong-un a “thug” and “dictator” during his election campaign last year. 

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The South Korean President requested Biden to hold talks with North Korea at a time when he is busy with domestic affairs, including the management of COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, there are concerns over Pyongyang’s lack of keenness to resume talks with both South Korea and the US. Earlier in January, North Korea showcased its latest nuclear programme by parading its new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and other weapons in a bid to pressurize the US and South Korea.

Amid these developments, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha and new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have agreed on the urgency of dealing with North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. As per a statement released by the South Korean Foreign Ministry on Wednesday, the two leaders held a phone conversation when they agree on the need for Washington and Seoul to closely discuss the matter to reach a solution. 

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