Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for July 11, 2022

Newsline: Top US envoy in Hong Kong rebukes China’s crackdown in farewell speech

Washington’s top diplomat in Hong Kong said China should not be “terrified of dissenting opinions” as he used a farewell speech on Monday to rebuke Beijing’s crackdown on freedoms in the business hub. Hanscom Smith’s three-year term as consul general was caught in mounting challenges as Beijing and Washington took opposing sides on the city’s huge, sometimes violent pro-democracy protests in 2019. China imposed a sweeping national security law on the city following the protests and Washington implemented sanctions against top Hong Kong officials. US officials confirmed privately that since then city officials refused to meet with Smith. The consul general complained that routine diplomatic activities were characterised as “interference” and diplomats have been threatened under the security law. “Strong nations are not terrified of dissenting opinions. An exchange of views is not collusion. Attending an event is not interference. A handshake is not ‘a black hand’,” Smith said in his farewell speech at the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/top-us-envoy-in-hong-kong-rebukes-china-s-crackdown-in-farewell-speech/ar-AAZs10o) He reaffirmed that Washington did not support Hong Kong independence and “we simply ask Beijing to … give the city the autonomy Beijing promised”. Since its handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” principle agreed by Britain and China and codified in the city’s mini-constitution.

Newsline: Diplomats seek deal to keep critical Syria aid flowing

Diplomats at the United Nations held last-ditch discussions on extending Syrian cross-border aid Sunday, as residents of the country’s rebel-held northwest feared life-saving supplies could soon halt. The lack of an agreement threatens to upend assistance to more than two million people. The aid delivery mechanism across Turkey’s border into rebel-held Syria at the Bab al-Hawa crossing is the only way UN assistance can reach civilians without navigating areas controlled by Syrian government forces. The system has been in place since 2014, but it expired on Sunday. Syrian ally Russia on Friday vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have prolonged the mechanism by one year, and Western powers then voted down Moscow’s competing resolution that proposed extending approval by just six months. “Negotiations are continuing,” one diplomat at the UN in New York told AFP on condition of anonymity. But one ambassador, who also declined to be identified, said: “We are stuck where we were on Friday.” (https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/diplomats-seek-deal-to-keep-critical-syria-aid-flowing/ar-AAZqoe5) The Security Council has previously extended the cross-border mechanism after it had expired, and several sources said a vote was still possible early in the coming week.

Newsline: U.S. top diplomat calls on China, ASEAN countries to hold Myanmar accountable

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday urged China and members of the Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN to put pressure on Myanmar’s rulers to return to democracy and to hold it accountable to a peace deal agreed with the group. “It is incumbent on China and in China’s interest to see Burma move back to the path it was on,” Blinken said, using the country’s former name. Speaking at a news conference in Bangkok during a tour of Asia, Blinken called on members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to hold Myanmar’s government accountable to “five-point consensus” peace agreement. “The ASEAN countries need to hold the regime accountable for that … continue to demand the cessation of violence and release of prisoners,” he added. (https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/blinken-thailand-shore-up-regional-support-counter-china-push-2022-07-10/) ASEAN’s nine members and Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing in April last year signed an agreement that included immediate cessation of violence and dialogue among all parties.