Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s official Twitter account replaced a tweet Thursday criticizing the Chinese government and vowing to “stand with the people of Hong Kong” with another post using softer language. A spokesperson for the State Department later called Blinken’s first tweet an “error.
Blinken’s initial message read: “Beijing should let the voices of all Hong Kongers be heard. The PRC’s disqualification of district councillors only weakens Hong Kong’s long-term political and social stability. We stand with the people of Hong Kong & continue to support their human rights & fundamental freedoms.”
The since-deleted tweet followed China’s move to dismiss seven pro-democracy Hong Kong opposition district councilors from office. Authorities declared that the oaths taken by the disqualified group of officials were invalid.
Blinken instead opted to issue a less-forceful tweet in its place Thursday evening:
“The PRC’s disqualification of seven pro-democracy district councillors undermines the ability of people in Hong Kong to participate in their governance. Governments should serve the people they represent. Decreasing representation goes against the spirit of Hong Kong’s Basic Law.”
A spokesperson for Blinken’s department claimed that the prior tweet was an “error” when contacted by Fox News for a statement regarding the State Department social media team’s decision to delete the earlier, upfront text.
“The team that manages the Secretary’s Twitter account mistakenly sent the tweet intended to come from the Spokesperson. We fixed that error and tweeted from both accounts, speaking out about Hong Kong authorities’ disqualification of pro-democracy district councilors,” the spokesperson told Fox News.
An identical tweet was also posted by Ned Price, spokesman for the State Department, on the same day as Blinken’s criticism, and it, too, was deleted.
In addition, the spokesperson insisted that “political concerns” had nothing to do with the maneuver and that the department’s official position on Hong Kong has not changed as the “United States stands with the people of Hong Kong.
“Suggestions that this administrative change was somehow motivated by political concerns is patently untrue. The tweets affirm – in words and in meaning – that the United States stands with the people of Hong Kong. We urge the PRC to allow the people of Hong Kong to meaningfully participate in their governance.”
South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong–based English-language newspaper, called Blinken’s second, muted tweet a “watered-down version” of the original, a colorful post in which he had “accused Beijing of weakening the city’s long-term political stability,” the outlet characterized.
A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry’s Hong Kong office issued a statement Friday opposing “irresponsible comments from certain US politicians” on Hong Kong, saying that “no US slanders” would deter the nation’s determination to enforce “patriots administering Hong Kong.
“[The seven district councilors] smeared the Chinese central government and the HKSAR government, stood on the side of anti-China, destabilising forces in Hong Kong and interfered in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs as a whole,” the statement said, referring to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The statement said it was common international practice to require an oath of allegiance, set out qualifications for legislators, and ensure national identity and political loyalty through legislation: “It is sheer hypocrisy and [a] double standard that the US vilifies the just measure of the HKSAR government, even as it itself has an ‘iron net’ system to require public officers to swear allegiance at home, and disqualifies lawmakers for violating parliamentary rules.”
Hong Kong’s political landscape has changed drastically in recent time. With the elimination of the free press, the Chinese government has been curtailing freedom of speech across the region and suppressing the political opposition.
Hong Kong’s only pro-democracy newspaper, The Apple Daily, has been silenced. The Apple Daily printed its last edition in late June after its offices were raided and its staff and owner were arrested under national security laws that aim to rein Hong Kong under complete Chinese mainland control. Law enforcement claimed that The Apple Daily violated security law by criticizing the security law.
The statement said it was common international practice to require an oath of allegiance, set out qualifications for legislators and ensure their national identity and political loyalty through legislation.“It is sheer hypocrisy and [a] double standard that the US vilifies the just measure of the HKSAR government, even as it itself has an ‘iron net’ system to require public officers to swear allegiance at home, and disqualifies lawmakers for violating parliamentary rules.”