Tokyo [Japan], March 14 (ANI): Japan has said that it "cannot overlook" the resolution passed by China's National People's Congress on Thursday to change the electoral system in Hong Kong, with Tokyo calling the new laws requiring all political candidates to be "patriots" of Beijing as a major setback to the city's autonomy.
"The decision this time will further undermine the confidence in the 'one country, two systems' framework, as provided for in the Hong Kong Basic Law and the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration," Japan's foreign ministry said in a Friday statement as quoted by South China Morning Post.
The ministry said that Japan's concerns were growing due to the recent arrest and prosecution of a number of opposition politicians and activists. It also called on Beijing to hold elections in Hong Kong that were open to candidates "representing a variety of political opinions".
Analysts say that Japan is not completely toothless, particularly if it works in close concert with other concerned players.
"From the [Japanese] government, I expect similar comments to last year after the security law was passed, talking about the importance of personal liberties and freedoms and how curtailing those freedoms will impact the city's commercial activities and, as a consequence, harm China's interests," said Go Ito, a professor of international relations at Tokyo's Meiji University.
According to South China Morning Post, Japan was Hong Kong's fourth-largest trading partner in 2019, while the city was Japan's ninth-largest trade partner that year, with total merchandise trade between the two coming to HK$373.6 billion that year.
Japan's condemnation of Hong Kong's so-called electoral reforms comes after the United Kingdom on Saturday said it considers China to be in a "state of ongoing non-compliance" with the Sino-British joint declaration after Beijing approved sweeping changes for tighter control over Hong Kong.
In a statement, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the Chinese decision to impose "radical changes to restrict participation in Hong Kong's electoral system"
The Group of Seven (G7) nations on Friday issued a statement expressing "grave concerns" about Beijing's plan to change Hong Kong's electoral system, which was approved on Thursday by China's national legislature.
The European Union also hit out at China for the political conditions in Hong Kong, describing it as an "alarming political deterioration" and a "severe erosion of autonomy, democracy and fundamental freedoms".
According to South China Morning Post, the bloc's annual report on the city hit out at the tightening grip of Beijing on Hong Kong affairs, the "chilling effect on the exercise of protected rights and freedoms" brought by the national security law (NSL), and an uptick in "self-censorship in the media, academia and civil society".
The United States has condemned China's national legislature approving a resolution to drastically overhaul Hong Kong's electoral system to ensure only 'patriots' can rule the city, a move which is feared to further clamp down on opposition voices in the city.
"We condemn the People's Republic of China (PRC's) continuing assaults on democratic institutions in Hong Kong," US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said during a press briefing.
China on Thursday voted to pass legislation on Hong Kong's electoral system. The legislation was passed with only one abstention and 2,895 delegates voting in favour. The Congress regularly unanimously or overwhelmingly rubber stamps plans proposed by the party.
The plan will allow the ruling Communist Party to appoint more of Hong Kong's lawmakers, reducing the share elected by the public.
Less than a year after imposing the draconian National Security Law, China last week had launched a legislative process for drastic electoral system reform in Hong Kong, which could benefit the pro-establishment camp and further quash the political opposition in the city.
The Election Committee will be expanded to add these 300 Beijing loyalists and the Legislative Council will also be expanded to 90 seats from 70.
Although Chinese officials have insisted that the measures are necessary to establish a 'democratic electoral system with Hong Kong characteristics', critics have warned that it would limit the space for the opposition in the city and roll back years of effort to liberalise the system, reported SCMP. (ANI)