The United States government has condemned the decision by the Hong Kong authorities to impose a new national security law that seeks to target pro-democracy activists in the city, including an American citizen, with hefty bounties. The United States State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that Washington “strongly opposes” the decision that it says “is part of Beijing’s unrelenting assault on the people of Hong Kong’s rights, autonomy, and fundamental freedoms”.
The move by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region levies fines varying from HK$50,000 to HK$500,000 (U.S. $6,400 to U.S. $64,000) on those found guilty of violating the law’s provisions. An additional bounty of up to HK$4.2 million (U.S. $536,000) is awarded for information leading to successful prosecution of those found in breach of the new security legislation.
The Hong Kong authorities had defended the move as necessary for safeguarding national security and interests.
The United States government has however stated that the move is in direct contravention of Beijing’s commitments to Hong Kong’s people made in its international treaty obligations, including the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 which Beijing vowed would remain in force despite its 1997 handover of the city to China.
The statement from the U.S. State Department also warned of retribution if Beijing continues on its current course.
“The world is watching, and we urge Beijing to immediately reverse course,” said Ortagus. “The United States will respond to the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy with appropriate measures.”