Hong Kong standoff leaves U.S. and China on "brink of new Cold War"

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A day after thousands of angry Hong Kong residents hit the streets in the biggest protests since last year's massive pro-democracy demonstrations, Beijing warned that some in the U.S. were driving bilateral ties to a nadir unseen in a generation.

"Some political forces in the U.S. are hijacking the China-U.S. relations and pushing our two countries toward a 'new Cold War'," said China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi. "This dangerous attempt to turn back the wheel of history will undo the fruits of decades of long cooperation between the two peoples."

Beijing unveiled its plan Friday to impose new, controversial national security laws to clamp down on the former British colony by banning treason, secession and subversion. The laws would also allow security forces from mainland China to operate inside the semi-autonomous region for the first time since the U.K. handed it back over in 1997.

China's "Cold War" warning came a day after National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien made it clear that Hong Kong could lose its vaunted trade status with the U.S., which exempts the global financial hub from U.S. tariffs and trade restrictions imposed on mainland China, if the law is enacted.

"I can't see how Hong Kong remains an Asian financial center if the Chinese Communist Party goes through and implements its national security law," O'Brien told "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan.

Many in Hong Kong fear Chinese authorities' interpretation of the looming laws will lead to new censorship of speech and the press, limits on the freedom to assemble, and protesters being accused of terrorism.

On Sunday, riot police fired tear gas and deployed water cannon against furious protesters in the first large-scale reaction to the draft legislation. Almost 180 people were arrested, mostly for violating coronavirus-related regulations that ban gatherings of more than eight people.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has criticized China's proposed national security laws, warning they could be an early death knell for the "one country, two systems" principle under which Beijing pledged to leave Hong Kong's semi-autonomy intact until 2047 – half a century after the U.K. handed its former colony back to Beijing.

Nearly 200 political figures from around the world have criticized Beijing's draft national security laws for Hong Kong, including 17 members of the U.S. Congress, calling it a "flagrant breach" of that agreement.

Hong Kong pro-democracy legislator Claudia Mo told CBS News that the idea of one country, two systems, "doesn't mean anything anymore."

"It's very saddening," she said, "very depressing." But the fiery politician added that Beijing's push for more power "doesn't mean that we'll all just… take it all lying down."

The new laws are widely expected to be adopted at the end of this year's National People's Congress. The annual gathering of China's rubber-stamp legislature, which began last week in Beijing, is set to wrap up on Thursday.
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