A group of five countries led by the US has called on China to stop undermining the rights of the people of Hong Kong to elect their representatives, asserting that Beijing's action appeared to be a part of a concerted campaign to silence all critical voices in the global financial hub.
The other countries include Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of these five countries reiterated on Wednesday their serious concern regarding China's imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong.
Following the imposition of the National Security Law and postponement of September's Legislative Council elections, this decision further undermines Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and rights and freedoms, they said.
"We call on China to stop undermining the rights of the people of Hong Kong to elect their representatives in keeping with the Joint Declaration and Basic Law. For the sake of Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity, it is essential that China and the Hong Kong authorities respect the channels for the people of Hong Kong to express their legitimate concerns and opinions," the joint statement said.
"As a leading member of the international community, we expect China to live up to its international commitments and its duty to the people of Hong Kong. We urge the Chinese central authorities to re-consider their actions against Hong Kong’s elected legislature and immediately reinstate the Legislative Council members," it said.
Hong Kong expelled four opposition members from its legislature last week after Beijing gave city authorities new powers to curb dissent. The move triggered mass resignations by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition lawmakers.
It also raised concern over Hong Kong’s autonomy, promised under a "one country, two systems" formula when Britain ended its colonial rule and handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997.
China’s action is a clear breach of its international obligations under the legally binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration. It breaches both China’s commitment that Hong Kong will enjoy a "high degree of autonomy", and the right to freedom of speech, the statement said.
The disqualification rules appear part of a concerted campaign to silence all critical voices following the postponement of September’s Legislative Council elections, the imposition of charges against a number of elected legislators, and actions to undermine the freedom of Hong Kong’s vibrant media, it added.