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Global Times

HK bill may face retaliation

Global Times

By Wang Wenwen in Hong Kong and Chen Qingqing Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/20 9:44:01

US Senate's act 'nonsensical, self-damaging'

US senators are encouraging Washington to carry out a "self-damaging mission" in pushing forward a Hong Kong-related bill that may lead to sanctions on China and a review of the trade status of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, experts said. They warned that China would come up with equivalent countermeasures if Washington enforces the measure.

The bill now goes to the US House of Representatives, which earlier approved its own version. Both houses will sort out their differences before sending the legislation to US President Donald Trump for his signature.

The bill, if passed, would sanction Chinese officials found "suppressing Hong Kong's democracy, human rights or citizen freedoms" by freezing their assets in the US and denying them entry to the country. It will also review Hong Kong's condition of autonomy annually that relates to the city's special trade status.

Shen Yi, an associate professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs of Fudan University, slammed the US move as "crazy and nonsensical," and called it a "political show" to vent its anxiety.

"It is a self-destructive bargain as it uses US companies and financial organizations in Hong Kong to threaten the Chinese government to make compromises," Shen told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Strong opposition

In an unprecedented move, seven Chinese institutes - the National People's Congress, The National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, the Liaison Office of the Chinese Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, and Hong Kong SAR government - condemned the bill's approval.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said the US disregarded facts and openly interfered in Hong Kong-related affairs and the domestic affairs of China, which violates international rules and principles.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry strongly criticized some US politicians who try to achieve their own goals by turning a blind eye to reality and the interests of Hong Kong citizens. US politicians who glorify attacks and crimes as the pursuit of "human rights" and "democracy" aim to support radicals and rioters, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said.

Over the past five months, Hong Kong has been engulfed in extremely radical and violent criminal activities, seriously jeopardizing public safety and defying the principle of "one country, two systems," Geng noted, adding that the central government will continue to firmly support the Hong Kong SAR government in enforcing the law and safeguarding social order.

The Hong Kong SAR government also expressed deep regret, saying the bill and another related one are groundless and will hurt relations between the Hong Kong SAR government and the US.

A Hong Kong SAR government spokesperson said the Basic Law grants Hong Kong special status, and that the status has been widely recognized and respected by the international community.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned William Klein, Minister Counselor for political affairs at the US Embassy in Beijing, to lodge solemn representations and strongly protest against the passage of the bill.

Vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu said China is strongly against the latest "human rights bill," urging the US side to take effective measures to prevent the bill from becoming law.

He also urged the US government to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs. Otherwise, the Chinese side will be compelled to take countermeasures, with the US bearing the consequences.

"The passage of the bill means US interference in China's internal affairs has escalated and its 'Hong Kong card' has come to the phase of a 'legal war,'" Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing and a member of the Beijing-based Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

"But US interests in Hong Kong will also be jeopardized as the US has a lot of investments in Hong Kong as well as in the mainland through Hong Kong," Tian noted. He also said that such an intervention does not have any legal basis under international law, and implementing those possible laws are not binding.

Future countermeasures

China can also carry out countermeasures, such as sanctioning the senators who pushed the bill forward, the National People's Congress Standing Committee passing resolutions as China's blocking statute and providing sufficient political and interest protection to Hong Kong and mainland officials who may be sanctioned, analysts said.

Hong Kong-based expert Tang Fei, a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, believes that the passage of the bill will weaken Hong Kong society's consensus and determination to end the current violence and chaos in the city and give Trump leverage in US trade negotiations, and even strategic competition with China.

"But at the start, its effect will remain in theory as the US president and government are flexible when implementing it. It doesn't necessarily mean a blacklist will soon be made, and the US president can make adjustments according to 'national interests,'" Tang told the Global Times on Wednesday.

So far, Trump has kept silent about the bill.

Passing the bill will surely weigh on the ongoing trade talks between China and the US, as reviewing the special trade status of Hong Kong or revoking the status would also hurt trade ties between China and the US, as much of the trade activities take place through Hong Kong, a global trading hub, another analyst said.

"The US Congress has been highly politicized as those politicians only care about their own political goals, ignoring the fundamental interests of their country," Mei Xinyu, a research fellow at the Ministry of Commerce's Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

Such a move will also put the US president in an embarrassing situation, as the Trump administration has been seeking a trade war truce with China by coming up with the first-phase agreement, Mei noted.

"Creating leverage out of the Hong Kong issue will also affect trade talks," he said.

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