US Secretary of State Antony Blinken deleted a tweet that said the United States would “stand with the people of Hong Kong”, a post in which he accused Beijing of weakening the city’s long-term political stability.
He posted the message after seven Hong Kong opposition district councillors were disqualified this week, with authorities declaring that the oaths taken by them were invalid.
A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry’s Hong Kong office issued a statement on Friday strongly opposing “irresponsible comments from certain US politicians” on Hong Kong, saying that “no US slanders” would deter the nation’s determination to enforce “patriots administering Hong Kong”.
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“[The seven district councillors] smeared the Chinese central government and the HKSAR government, stood on the side of anti-China, destabilising forces in Hong Kong and interfered into Hong Kong affairs and China‘s internal affairs as a whole,” according to the statement.
The spokesperson said in the statement that oath-taking was an international norm and remained important for ensuring that the national identity and political loyalty of legislators was set out through legislation.
“It is sheer hypocrisy and [a] double standard that the US vilifies the just measure of the HKSAR government, even as it itself has an ‘iron net’ system to require public officers to swear allegiance at home, and disqualifies lawmakers for violating parliamentary rules,” the statement added.
Blinken initially tweeted his criticism with an upfront tone on September 16: “Beijing should let the voices of all Hong Kongers be heard. The PRC’s disqualification of district councillors only weakens Hong Kong’s long-term political and social stability. We stand with the people of Hong Kong & continue to support their human rights & fundamental freedoms.”
The same tweet was also posted by Ned Price, spokesman for the US State Department, on the same day and it too was deleted.
A day later, Blinken posted a milder tweet that removed the US’ offer to stand with the people of Hong Kong and the blatant advice for Beijing to let the voices of all Hong Kong people heard.
His tweet the next day read: “The PRC’s disqualification of seven pro-democracy district councillors undermines the ability of people in Hong Kong to participate in their governance. Governments should serve the people they represent. Decreasing representation goes against the spirit of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”
The second tweet was criticised by other users who said it was “weak” while some questioned why he would delete the earlier tweet that seemingly offered more moral support and assurance to Hong Kong’s opposition camp.
Blinken has regularly criticised Beijing’s handling of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp. It remains unclear why the outspoken US politician would soften his stance on Hong Kong’s democracy movement.
Last week, the Global Times published an editorial accusing Blinken and British foreign secretary Dominic Raab of “useless wailing for Hong Kong Alliance”.
In July, the US sanctioned seven Chinese officials, all deputy directors from the central government‘s liaison office in Hong Kong.
Its director, Luo Huining, was sanctioned in August last year.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Hong Kong elections: why did Beijing order the city’s tycoons and ultra loyalists to take to the streets?
- 7 Hong Kong opposition district councillors disqualified after deadline passes for submission of information to determine oath validity
- Role of Hong Kong’s district councils needs reviewing, home affairs chief says after removal of members for invalid oaths
- Hong Kong elections: police ‘to deploy 4,000 officers’ to ensure smooth polls on Sunday, even with only 4,900 voters expected to cast ballot
- National security law: Beijing slams US ‘safe haven’ offer to Hongkongers as ‘plot to stir up trouble’, interference in city affairs