Aug. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with the foreign ministers of four ally nations called on the government of Hong Kong on Sunday to reinstate disqualified candidates while condemning its decision to postpone September's legislative elections.
Pompeo with the foreign ministers of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain said in a joint statement that they are "gravely concerned" by the government of Hong Kong's decision to disqualify a dozen pro-democracy candidates and to delay Legislative Council elections that were set for next month by a year.
"These moves have undermined the democratic process that has been fundamental to Hong Kong's stability and prosperity," the five government officials said. "We call on the Hong Kong government to reinstate the eligibility of disqualified candidates so that the elections can take place in an environment conducive to the rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Basic Law," which is Hong Kong's mini-constitution.
The joint statement was issued a little more than a week after 12 pro-democracy candidates, including prominent activist Joshua Wong, were disqualified from running in the September election.
According to a statement from the Hong Kong government, the candidates were removed as they would not uphold the Basic Law, which Beijing had recently amended with a draconian national security law that criminalizes acts of secession, sedition, subversion, terrorism and working with foreign agencies to undermine the national security of the People's Republic of China.
A day later and amid a spike in coronavirus cases, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked an emergency regulation ordinance to postpone the Legislative Council election by a year "in order to protect public safety and public health as well as ensure elections are conducted openly and fairly," a government statement read.
The five government officials said Sunday they urge Hong Kong to hold the elections "as soon as possible" while demanding that Beijing uphold its promise to maintain the former British colony's high degree of autonomy that has been threatened by the new national security law.
"We express deep concern at Beijing's imposition of the new national security law, which is eroding the Hong Kong people's fundamental rights and liberties," they said.
The statement was issued amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington as the Trump administration has repeatedly criticized China over its human rights record and its alleged cover up of its initial COVID-19 outbreak, among several other issues that has seen the United States impose sanctions against Chinese companies and politicians.
On Friday, the U.S. government sanctioned 11 current and former Hong Kong officials, including Lam, for undermining Hong Kong's autonomy and restricting the freedom of expression of its citizens by aiding Beijing to implement the new law.
Beijing's office in Hong Kong expressed its "strong indignation" to the U.S. sanctions in a statement on Saturday, accusing the United States of obstructing and undermining its efforts to safeguard the nation.
"Any meddling force confronting the 1.4 billion Chinese people, including our Hong Kong compatriots, will end up in repeated failures," the statement said.