The U.S., Britain, Australia and Canada on Thursday condemned China's decision to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, saying it would "dramatically erode" its autonomy and threaten its stability and prosperity.
In a joint statement, the top diplomats in the four countries said they had "deep concern" about Beijing's action, saying it threatens Hong Kong's place in the world as "a bastion of freedom."
The diplomats - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne -- said imposition of Beijing control on the territory "would curtail the Hong Kong people's liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong's autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous."
The four Western countries said, "China's decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding, UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration."
They contended that Chinese control of Hong Kong "also raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people."
The four countries said that "rebuilding trust across Hong Kong society by allowing the people of Hong Kong to enjoy the rights and freedoms they were promised can be the only way back from the tensions and unrest that the territory has seen over the last year."
They urged China to work with the Hong Kong government and the 7 million people who live there to find "a mutually acceptable accommodation."
Separately, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told VOA that the Chinese national security legislation essentially labels peaceful protesters in Hong "terrorists."
"And that's just not something that we're going to stand for. It's the actions of the Chinese Communist Party that are forcing the world's hands to recognize what they're doing to the people of Hong Kong. We stand with the people of Hong Kong," Morgan Ortagus said.