24 May 2020   Leave a comment

There were large protests in Hong Kong against the proposed national security law being discussed by the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing. The proposed laws would fatally undermine the limited autonomy the region has under the “one country, two systems” agreement with Britain that was scheduled to last until 2047. Hong Kong activists, writing in an op-ed for the Washington Post, argued that “Beijing has just hammered the final nail in the coffin for Hong Kong’s autonomy. The promise of ‘one country, two systems’ is dead.” If passed, the laws would allow the Chinese Central government to intervene in the region’s affairs if it deemed that activities were secessionist. Although US President Trump has yet to make a public comment on the protests, it seems clear that the US government is moving toward condemning the proposed legislation:

“On Sunday, Trump’s National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien said the proposed security measures could jeopardize Hong Kong’s future as a financial hub — due in part to its special trade status with the U.S. — and lead to sanctions.

“‘It looks like, with this national security law, they’re going to basically take over Hong Kong,’ O’Brien told NBC’s Meet the Press. ‘And if they do, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy and if that happens there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China.’

Legislation passed last year requires the state department to annually certify that Hong Kong is ‘upholding the rule of law and protecting rights” and “sufficiently autonomous’ for the city to maintain its special status under U.S. law.

The list of disputes between the US and China that arose just last week were detailed by Eamonn Sheridan:

It is also the case, however, that China, with its heavy-handed policies, may be undermining the economic value of Hong Kong. William Pesek points out the possible grim effects of the protests on the Hong Kong economy:

“At the very least, Hong Kong can kiss goodbye its status as the world’s second-freest economy, a halo bestowed by the Heritage Foundation. The Washington-based think tank has long fetishized Hong Kong’s negligible tax rates, duty-free ports, ease of doing business, unfettered capital flows and transparent rule of law.

“Worse, last year the U.S. passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which mandates an annual review of the city’s autonomy; if it finds that China has taken more control, as this move certainly suggests, the U.S. can remove economic and trade privileges Hong Kong enjoys. This would remove its attraction as a gateway to China.

“All of this comes as Hong Kong’s economy reels from last year’s massive protests — which may now return — the U.S.-China trade war and the fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

“Hong Kong’s gross domestic product fell 5.3% in the first quarter of this year; President Xi Jinping’s new move is only going to ensure more economic trouble.”

I do not think that there are any winners in this situation. If the US Congress forces sanctions on China for its actions in Hong Kong, there will be no way for President Xi to back down. The US, the people of Hong Kong, and China will all pay a heavy price for these short-sighted actions.

Posted May 24, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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