Pompeo warns China over interference with US journalists in Hong Kong


Beijing is growing increasingly assertive over its role in Hong Kong, looking to tighten its supervision over politics ahead of elections for the city's Legislative Council in September.

The legislature's house committee, which vets bills and decides when to present them for a final vote, had been without a chairperson for more than six months.

On Monday - before the Legislative Council began - Mr Chan was in the chairman's seat, surrounded by more than 20 security guards.

While the protests continued Chan called a vote for a chairperson of the committee which was won by the pro-Beijing DAB leader Starry Lee. The Democrats chanted "foul play" and held a placard reading "CCP [China Communist Party] tramples HK legislature".

Pro-democracy legislators charged at more than 20 security guards who were surrounding pro-establishment lawmaker Chan Kin-Por. However opposition lawmakers said they would not recognize Lee.

"It's painful to watch and it's saddening to see a legislative assembly degenerate into this level of behaviour", pro-Beijing lawmaker Martin Liao said.

"Hong Kong is marching toward the beginning of the end of "one country, two systems", pro-democracy lawmaker Claudia Mo aid after the meeting ended. The bill would have allowed residents of Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, to be sent to mainland to stand trial. The bill sparked often-violent protests in the Hong Kong and was later scrapped.

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However, Pompeo now believes that China is interfering in Hong Kong's working.

The bill was introduced past year in response to fans regularly booing the anthem during soccer matches. The backlog includes the China national anthem bill, which is expected to be given a second reading on May 27 despite the procedural chaos.

That bill, which was eventually withdrawn, also sparked fights in the legislature before the political unrest exploded onto the streets.

Those elections, as well as the national anthem law, are likely to be a key theme of renewed anti-government protests, which have been gathering steam again after a prolonged break due to the coronavirus pandemic. They and the other activists were arrested on April 18.

The Chinese capital blames foreign forces for fomenting unrest and says protesters are undermining the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Sunday warning China the USA would take action if authorities interfere with the work of American journalists in Hong Kong. "Any decision impinging on Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms as guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law would inevitably impact our assessment of One Country, Two Systems and the status of the territory".

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a pact with former colonial master Britain that the city would have a high degree of autonomy and enjoy some freedoms unavailable in the mainland.