Suspend HK special status in event of China crackdown: USCC

November 15, 2019 16:58
A US congressional commission has urged Washington to develop specific benchmarks to measure the 'high degree of autonomy' that Hong Kong is meant to enjoy from Beijing. Photo: Bloomberg

The US Congress should enact legislation that would suspend the special economic status Hong Kong enjoys under US law should China deploy forces to crush protests in the territory, a congressional advisory body said on Thursday.

The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC), which is tasked with monitoring the national security implications of US relations with Beijing, issued the call in its annual report among a series of tough proposals reflecting a “markedly more confrontational” relationship.

With Beijing seeking to build a “world class” military and warning of its willingness to take military action to defend its interests, Washington “must plan for worst-case scenarios, while trying to achieve the best ones,” the report said.

The US House of Representatives unanimously passed Hong Kong human rights legislation last month, including a bill that would place Hong Kong’s special treatment under tighter scrutiny.

A Senate committee approved a similar measure in September but it has yet to be scheduled for a vote by the full body and the White House has not said whether President Donald Trump would sign or veto such a bill.

The USCC's recommendations go further, calling for legislation to suspend Hong Kong’s special status if China “deploys People’s Liberation Army or People’s Armed Police forces to engage in armed intervention in Hong Kong.”

It also urged Congress to direct the State Department to develop specific benchmarks to measure the “high degree of autonomy” the territory is meant to enjoy from Beijing.

On Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province but which Washington is bound to help defend, the USCC called for a Pentagon study to form the basis of a 15-year plan of action to deter any attempt by Beijing to absorb the island by force.

It also called for legislation to direct the administration to increase military exchanges and training with Taiwan.

“Just as nations sought freedom from the iron grip of the Soviet system, we are bearing witness to aspirations in both Hong Kong and Taiwan which require our reconsideration of the commitments we made under the one-country, two-systems model,” USCC vice chair, Robin Cleveland, said in introducing the report.

USCC recommendations are non-binding but have become increasingly influential with policy makers. Its prescriptions are routinely denounced by Beijing.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the USCC is always “full of prejudice” when it came to China and its reports generally lack any basis in fact.

“I have no interest in commenting here on the report’s contents,” he told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

The USCC report focused closely on Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s bid to tighten his and the Communist Party’s grip on power and argued he should be referred to as “general secretary” of that party, rather than by the “unearned title of ‘President.’” Reuters

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