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Global Times

China mulls Hong Kong bill antidote

Global Times

By Wang Wenwen in Hong Kong, Wang Cong and Source:Global Times Published: 2019/11/22 0:23:39

US legislation move will not shake city's financial center status: expert

China is mulling potential countermeasures against a new US bill that shows Washington's intention to blatantly interfere in China's internal affairs related to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), with some calling for possible sanctions on individuals and entities that aid the US' attack on China's national security and interests.

The US move, an open support for hysterical mobs in Hong Kong and a bargaining chip in trade talks, could create uncertainty for not only the HKSAR's economy but also put businesses from around the world in Hong Kong, including from the US, at serious risk, analysts said.

In a hasty process on Wednesday, the US Senate passed the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which, among other things, directs the US government to conduct an annual review of the HKSAR's status. And based on the review, the US can impose sanctions on Chinese officials it deems to have abused human rights and change US trade policies toward the city.

US President Donald Trump is reportedly expected to sign the bill as the US Congress has enough votes to overturn his veto power.

The bill has drawn harsh criticism from various Chinese government departments, which called the move a blatant interference in China's internal affairs, and warned of "effective countermeasures."

Possible retaliation

As a tit-for-tat move, China could also put forward sanctions on individuals and entities that violate China's sovereignty and hurt China's national security and interests, some experts suggested.

"Possible measures include restricting US lawmakers who interfere in China's internal affairs," Liang Haiming, a Hong Kong economist, told the Global Times on Thursday. He said that China could also blacklist "relevant" US companies and hold back cooperation with the US on some global issues.

A spokesperson for the HKSAR government on Wednesday also hinted that the city could halt cooperation with the US on the latter's export control and law enforcement efforts, saying that the bill will have a negative impact on relations and US interests.

The HKSAR should also push forward legislation for a national security law - the Article 23 of the Basic Law - which is aimed at prohibiting acts of treason, secession, sedition or subversion, to counter coordination between secessionists in Hong Kong and foreign forces, according to Li Xiaobing, an expert on Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan affairs at Nankai University in Tianjin.

"What we can do first is internal controls. In particular, [we need to] control the current situation in Hong Kong," Li told the Global Times on Thursday, noting that the US' rush to pass the law was to shore up support for rioters, whose tactics have been limited with intensified efforts by the Hong Kong Police.

The passage of the bill also comes at a sensitive time for Hong Kong and for China-US trade negotiations. Hong Kong is scheduled to hold elections for district council members later this month, and China and the US are negotiating a phase one trade deal to defuse tensions.

Some analysts have suggested that China should demand that the US stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs during the trade negotiations.

Global consequences

The bill, which opens the door for the US government to shift its trade arrangement with the HKSAR, also puts businesses from around the world, including those from the US and EU, in the global financial and trade hub in serious risk, given the uncertainty, experts noted.

"It will cause fear in the business community, and outsiders will consider the city's investment atmosphere unstable," Hong Kong legislator Priscilla Leung Mei-fun told the Global Times on Thursday, and US businesses will "surely" suffer the consequences as well.

The EU also has a massive business interest in Hong Kong. In 2018, the EU enjoyed a trade surplus of 26.8 billion euro and had 2,200 EU companies in the city, data from the European Commission shows.

"The bill will not shake Hong Kong's status as a financial center" because there are a lot of interests in Hong Kong, including those of the US, the EU and other countries, which will put tremendous constraints on the US to cause damage, Liao Qun, chief economist at China CITIC Bank in Hong Kong, told the Global Times.

Liang said that the SAR also has the support of the "powerful mainland market."

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