China fired back at the United States’ concerns with Hong Kong’s freedom by pointing directly at the racial unrest that has exploded in America, simply tweeting, “I can’t breathe”.
Tweets from Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokesperson, came as the U.S. struggles with nationwide riots that have erupted in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.
Her “I can’t breathe” attack touched a nerve as both Floyd and Eric Garner — both unarmed black men — uttered that expression moments before they died, while facing what many believe was excessive force by police.
State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortegus had castigated China for the way it treated Hong Kong protesters. “Freedom-loving people around the world must stand with the rule of law and hold to account the Chinese Communist Party, which has flagrantly broken its promises to the people of Hong Kong,” Ortagus said.
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That tweet was just the latest in an apparent strategy of China accusing the U.S. government of hypocrisy as it faced criticism for the way it countered pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong. Most recently, President Trump has announced that he would block Hong Kong’s trading privileges after China’s ceremonial parliament voted to bypass the semi-autonomous territory in enacting national security legislation.
In another tweet, Hua posted a segment from RT, which is funded by the Russian government, blasting the U.S. for supporting violent protests in Hong Kong while denouncing rioters as “thugs.”
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Iran similarly attacked the U.S., tweeting an altered press release in which the State Department attacked Iran amid ongoing protests in 2018.
“Some don’t think #BlackLivesMatter,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said. “To those of us who do: it is long overdue for the entire world to wage war against racism. Time for a #WorldAgainstRacism.”
Hua also suggested the U.S. employed similar regulations and likened Hong Kong to China’s “hand.”
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set the stage for Trump’s announcement by notifying Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong no longer has the high degree of autonomy that it is guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” framework.
Trump said Friday that his administration would begin eliminating the “full range” of agreements that had given Hong Kong a relationship with the U.S. that mainland China lacked, including exemptions from controls on certain exports.
“China has replaced its promised formula of one country, two systems, with one country, one system,” he said, echoing statements by pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
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A Hong Kong government statement accused Trump and his administration of smearing and demonizing the government’s duty to safeguard national security and called allegations that the security law would undermine individual freedoms “simply fallacious.”
“President Trump’s claim that Hong Kong now operated under ‘one country, one system’ was completely false and ignored the facts on the ground,” the statement said.
Separately, Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng told reporters that it was “completely false and wrong” to say the territory was losing its autonomy.