China fury: Beijing accuses Mike Pompeo of ‘blackmailing’ Hong Kong government

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The latest war-of-words erupted when Mr Pompeo said China’s treatment of pro-democracy activists made it harder to assess if the territory remains highly autonomous from China – a requirement for special treatment the city gets under America’s Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

We are closely watching what’s going on there

Mike Pompeo

But a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry’s office of the commissioner to Hong Kong said Mr Pompeo’s actions cannot scare the Chinese people and insisted Beijing would safeguard its sovereignty, security and development interests.

Mr Pompeo said a congressionally mandated State Department assessment as to whether the former British colony has such a degree of autonomy was still pending.

He said: “We are closely watching what’s going on there.

He claimed pro-democracy MPs had been “manhandled” this week while trying to stop what he described as procedural irregularity by pro-Beijing legislators in the Hong Kong parliament.

Mr Pompeo said: “Leading Hong Kong activists like Martin Lee and Jimmy Lai were hauled into court.

“Actions like these make it more difficult to assess that Hong Kong remains highly autonomous from mainland China.”

The Chinese foreign ministry’s office of the commissioner to Hong Kong said in Mr Pompeo’s comments amounted to “blackmailing” the Hong Kong government.

The Secretary of State had earlier said he believed China had threatened to interfere with the work of US journalists in Hong Kong and warned Beijing that any decision threatening the territory’s autonomy could affect Washington’s assessment.

Tensions between China and the US have soared in recent weeks, with Mr Pompeo and Donald Trump attacking Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, in which the US has been hardest hit.

Mr Pompeo said: “This plague has cost roughly 90,000 American lives, more than 36 million Americans have lost their jobs since March; globally 300,000 lives.

“Could be as much as $9 trillion, according to our estimates, cost imposition on the world of the Chinese Communist Party’s failures.”

Mr Trump ramped up the rhetoric yesterday when he launched an extraordinary attack on China and blamed it for “this mass worldwide killing”.

The US President has already made various allegations against China, accusing it of trying to block evidence the virus could be transmitted between people, pressurising the World Health Organisation (WHO) into not declaring it an emergency, refusing to share data and samples and denying access to its scientists and facilities.

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Mr Trump tweeted: “Some wacko in China just released a statement blaming everybody other than China for the Virus which has now killed hundreds of thousands of people.

“Please explain to this dope that it was the incompetence of China, and nothing else, that did this mass worldwide killing!”

His explosive comments come after China said the US was trying to shift the blame for Washington’s own mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Chinese Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the US was trying to smear China and had miscalculated by trying to use China to avoid its own responsibility.

China’s president has called an independent review of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic under the World Health Organisation once the virus is under control, and defended Beijing’s own handling of the pandemic.

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