The Chinese embassy has released a statement saying that it wishes to express its “grave concern and strong opposition” to a statement recently published by Minister Simon Coveney. It says that the Minister’s statement made “groundless accusations” against China’s new security legislation for Hong Kong.

Minister Coveney had said that he was “concerned” about the law, saying it had been brought in without any meaningful consultation with Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, and that the law risked undermining the autonomy of Hong Kong under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle.

That principle, which China agreed to abide by when Hong Kong was transferred to its control in 1997, states that, “The socialist system and policies shall not be practiced in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, and the previous capitalist system and way of life shall remain unchanged for 50 years.”

Critics have said that the new security law, brought in in an attempt to stop the spread of pro-democracy and pro-independence protests which have been happening for the past year in Hong Kong, gives the Chinese state extremely far reaching powers to operate in Hong Kong without oversight.

Amongst other things the law gives the Chinese government the right to appoint the judges who will oversee cases brought under the new law, and it state that very serious or complex cases may be heard on the mainland, effectively giving the Chinese government the right to rendition, without trial, any citizen of Hong Kong accused of a crime the Chinese governments deems to be sufficient. It also allows Chinese state intelligence agencies to set up headquarters in Hong Kong, and states that intelligence agents operating in Hong Kong will not be subject to the laws of Hong Kong whilst operating in the region.

Within 24 hours of the activation of the legislation 370 people had been arrested in Hong Kong, starting with a man who had been carrying a flag saying Hong Kong should be independent. Some of those arrested face up to life in prison for non-violent crimes.

The Economist called the new law “one of the biggest assaults on a liberal society since the second world war” adding that, “Hong Kong’s suffering holds a lesson for the world. China’s rulers cannot be trusted to keep their promises and they will stop at nothing to suppress dissent”. The last British Governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, described the law as “a betrayal of the people of Hong Kong,” saying that the law “marks the end of one-country, two-systems. It is a flagrant breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration.” He added that the Chinese regime is “an enemy of open societies” and that their breach of the Joint Declaration showed that they could not be trusted to abide by their international agreements and treaties.

China says that the law is in fact needed to ensure the “steady and sustained” implementation of the one country, two systems principle and to ensure residents of Hong Kong can exercise their freedom.

They say that, “Like the Irish people, the Chinese people including the people in Hong Kong will never again swallow the bitter fruit of foreign oppression and the nation being divided.”