The Five Eyes anglophone alliance this week criticised China for imposing new rules in Hong Kong which empower the city to expel elected legislators who cause Beijing trouble.
They urged Beijing to reverse course and stick to agreements it signed up to when Hong Kong was handed back by the British in 1997, according to media sources.
Five Eyes is an intelligence-sharing alliance of the five most powerful English-speaking countries: the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, set up during the Cold War to monitor the USSR and its allies.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman told journalists in Beijing on Thursday, “They should be careful, or their eyes will be plucked out. The Chinese never make trouble and are never afraid of anything, no matter if they have five or 10 eyes.”
He added that any attempt by foreign states to threaten or pressure Beijing to make concessions was “doomed to fail”.
Last week, Beijing passed a resolution allowing Hong Kong’s government to dismiss politicians considered a threat to national security, following which the city expelled four pro-democracy lawmakers from its legislature.
This was viewed by many as the latest attempt by China to restrict Hong Kong’s freedoms. In response, all of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers resigned.
Five Eyes foreign ministers urged China to reinstate the barred politicians, saying the move was a clear breach of Beijing’s legally binding commitments to protect the territory’s freedoms and autonomy. They also accused Beijing of undermining the rights of people in Hong Kong to elect their representatives, reported the BBC.
Hong Kong was returned to China from Britain under the “one country, two systems” principle, which allowed it to retain more rights and freedoms than the mainland until 2047.
As a Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong was to have its own legal system, multiple political parties, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech, but in late June this year, China passed a controversial national security law in the territory after years of pro-democracy and anti-Beijing protests.
The new law reduced Hong Kong’s autonomy and made it easier to punish pro-democracy demonstrators. It criminalises “secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces”.
Beijing says the law will return stability to the territory, but western governments and human rights groups say it effectively curtails freedom of speech and protest. After the law was introduced, a number of pro-democracy groups disbanded out of fears for their safety.