Just as the Sino-US trade war and the political crisis in Hong Kong are reaching a critical moment, the foreign affairs committees at the US Senate and House of Representatives have approved the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which is expected to be put to a vote shortly.
As an enhanced version of the 1992 United States-Hong Kong Policy Act, the bill, once passed, will mark a major change in Washington’s policy towards Hong Kong – and inflict serious harm on our city in the name of protecting human rights and democracy.
The legislation requires the US government to evaluate the state of autonomy in Hong Kong every year so as to provide grounds for maintaining our city’s status as a separate customs area and a recipient of other preferential treatments.
It also stipulates that the US president must, on an annual basis, identify individuals who are deemed violating human rights in Hong Kong and impose sanctions on them accordingly such as revoking their US visas and freezing their assets on American soil.
Apparently, the legislative push is part of Washington’s set of legal weapons relating to Hong Kong and Taiwan that are directed against China.
In my view, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act will do further harm to Hong Kong in five ways:
1. As the Sino-US trade war is still raging, not to mention that the US presidential election is fast approaching, the bipartisan support in Congress for US President Donald Trump’s move to play the “Hong Kong card” is obviously a US-centric initiative to defend American interests rather than to care about the well-being of Hong Kong.
The bill is regarded by many US politicians as the “last trump card” that can allow Washington to hinder China’s economic development by using the Hong Kong issue as leverage over Beijing.
2. The bill constitutes a hegemonic interference in China’s internal affairs because it is just a domestic law proposed by the US legislature, under which the secretary of state has to issue a report every year to assess whether Hong Kong is enjoying “sufficient autonomy”.
Under the proposed law, the president is also vested with the power of deciding whether our city can continue to be treated as a special customs area, to import sensitive strategic technologies from the US, and to maintain its status as an international financial hub.
3. The legislation is intended to turn Hong Kong into a US outpost in Asia to oppose the political system of the mainland in the name of upholding “human rights and freedom” in our city, and to use Hong Kong, which has been the mainland’s gateway of reform and opening up, as a pressure point to thwart Beijing’s economic reforms.
4. By imposing the new law on Hong Kong, the mainland’s economic and trade gateway to the world, under which our status as a special customs area will be subjected to scrutiny every year, the US can constrain our city’s role and contribution to China’s grand development blueprint.
And by doing so, Washington can also use Hong Kong as a bargaining chip to pile pressure on Beijing and hence negotiate in a position of strength on trade and other aspects of the Sino-US dispute.
5. The new law is also unfairly accusing the Hong Kong police of using excessive force while turning a blind eye to the violence done by rioters, thereby negatively affecting the prosperity, stability and international reputation of Hong Kong.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 2
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
– Contact us at [email protected]