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US warns China over Hong Kong freedoms

US warns China over Hong Kong freedoms

Washington: The United States has urged China to respect civil liberties in Hong Kong, including press freedom, as the territory marked the 20th anniversary of its handover to Beijing’s rule.

The State Department said yesterday the success of Hong Kong, which was given a large degree of autonomy when British colonial rule ended in 1997, was due to its unique status.

“The United States… Admires the city’s outstanding achievements, which are the result of its high degree of autonomy, its economic and personal freedoms, and its respect for rule of law,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

But while Washington valued its “excellent cooperation” with Hong Kong’s government it “remains concerned about any infringements of civil liberties in Hong Kong, including intrusions on press freedoms,” Nauert added in a statement.

Recent incidents in Hong Kong — including the disappearance of five publishers who were known for salacious titles about the Chinese leadership — have sparked fears that Beijing is choking the city’s freedoms.

Last year, the city’s High Court disqualified two democratically elected pro-independence lawmakers from taking their seats after they added expletives and used derogatory terms for China when taking their oaths.

The court’s move was preempted by an earlier intervention from Beijing which said they should not be allowed to join parliament.

Hong Kong was handed back to China by colonial ruler Britain in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula designed to protect its freedoms and way of life.