On Friday, the United States intensified threats to deprive Hong Kong of special trade privileges because it angered western countries over China’s brazen assault on territorial autonomy.
US lawmakers are pushing for tough action on Hong Kong, which has become the last front in mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing, but even some supporters of the territory’s democratic movement are asking if the “nuclear option” would be effective.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a national security bill, submitted to the Chinese legislature on Friday, would be “a coup de grace for the high degree of autonomy that Beijing had promised Hong Kong.”
The new law would impose sanctions for “subversion” and other perceived crimes in the city, which was wiped out by months of massive and sometimes violent demonstrations in favor of democracy last year.
In an expression of support for protesters, the US Congress overwhelmingly approved a law last year that would end Hong Kong’s preferential trade access to the world‘s largest economy if it were no longer certified as enjoying autonomy – what Beijing had promised before regaining control of the time. British colony in 1997.
Pompeo said the latest measures by Beijing would “inevitably” influence the State Department’s decision.
“The United States urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, to comply with its international obligations and to respect the high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions and civil liberties in Hong Kong, which are essential to preserve its status special under US law, “said Pompeo in a statement.
“A nuclear option”
Pompeo had delayed the certification decision, citing the just started session of the National People’s Congress, and lawmakers had anticipated earlier that President Donald Trump’s administration would be reluctant to end Hong Kong’s trade status.
Trump did not reluctantly sign the Hong Kong act, which Beijing firmly opposed, while negotiating an agreement to end a trade war with China.
Dennis Kwok, a pro-democracy lawmaker in Hong Kong, told a U.S.-based audience on Friday that the opposition forces in the territory appreciated the efforts of the United States and called for continued vigilance, expressing fear of repression policewoman in the coming days.
However, he warned of the risks of the United States revoking the city’s trade status, while acknowledging that many in Hong Kong were angry and would support the move.
“It’s almost like a nuclear option, which once you use it, everyone will be injured and it will be very difficult to rebuild Hong Kong,” Kwok told the conservative Heritage Foundation by videoconference.
Kwok said the most effective leverage would be to point out how investors would be scared of the shrinking autonomy in Hong Kong, one of the world‘s preeminent financial capitals.
“If China is stupid enough to believe that it can suppress Hong Kong and that it does not need an international financial center, then of course there is nothing that can be done to dissuade them to do otherwise, “he said.
Trump’s chief economic adviser Kevin Hassett made a similar statement to White House reporters, saying that “disdain for the rule of law” would be “very, very bad for the Chinese economy.”
“Most dangerous moment”
Hong Kong is only a flash point between the United States and China, the two largest economies in the world.
Trump and Pompeo have accused Beijing of being responsible for the coronavirus pandemic by failing to act more quickly – an argument which critics say is believed to divert from Trump’s own handling of the crisis.
Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, warned that the Pacific powers were “at their most dangerous time” since they normalized their relations four decades ago.
“There is a growing list of disagreements (Hong Kong being only the most recent) but no strategic justification for the relationship or the plan to limit friction. Both countries risk losing,” Haass wrote on Twitter.
Congress, with broad bipartisan support, seeks to increase pressure.
Following China’s announcement on the law, two senators, Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Chris Van Hollen, proposed a law that would impose sanctions on anyone involved in reducing Hong Kong’s autonomy, including including banks.
Senator Marco Rubio, a prominent ally of Trump, said that Hong Kong had shown that China “would lie to reach a deal”.
Martin Lee, considered the grandfather of the democratic movement in Hong Kong, made a similar remark to the Heritage Foundation, warning that Beijing could reverse the Trump trade deal.
“If Beijing can, with impunity, tear up an international agreement registered with the United Nations at will without being held responsible, Beijing would be encouraged to break more international agreements with other countries,” said Lee.
(With the exception of the title, this story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)