thursday, 28 may of 2020


China hits back at US move over Hong Kong security law

China has hit back at a US declaration that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from Beijing as lawmakers in the Chinese capital met to formally approve a plan to impose tough national security laws on the city.

China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s annual gathering of lawmakers, is discussing a proposal for the new security law that would target "splittism, subversion, terrorism, any behaviour that gravely threatens national security and foreign interference" in the Asian financial hub.

The proposal is expected to be passed by the rubber-stamp parliament this afternoon and the draft of the law will then follow in the coming months. If the bill is enacted, it would represent the first time Beijing had introduced a law that imposed criminal penalties into Hong Kong’s legal code.

The NPC deliberations come a day after Washington said it would no longer treat Hong Kong as entirely autonomous from China because of the bill. The decision by Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, threatens the city’s special trading status with Washington, under which Hong Kong is not subjected to the same tariffs and restrictions as mainland China.

"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," said Mr Pompeo.

Shares in Hong Kong tumbled on the news, with the Hang Seng index down 1.6 per cent by midday. China’s announcement last week that it would push ahead with a national security law has reignited protests in the city, with hundreds arrested on Wednesday during demonstrations in Hong Kong’s central business and main shopping districts.

The US decision that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous provoked an uproar from nationalist Chinese commentators. CCTV, the Chinese state broadcaster, sharply criticised the US for hypocrisy and pointed to Washington’s own national security legislation.

It said the true intent of US politicians was to "make Hong Kong as chaotic as possible" to distract attention from US failures in handling the coronavirus pandemic and to "contain the development of China".

"The US has always seen Hong Kong as a stronghold from which to conduct political infiltration in Asia," the CCTV commentary said.

Hu Xijin, editor-in-chief of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, wrote on social media that moving closer to China would help the Hong Kong. “Hong Kong’s biggest pillar for maintaining its status as an international financial centre is its special relationship with the huge economy of mainland China, which is much more important than the attitude of the US,” he wrote.

Under US legislation enacted last year, the state department is required to certify that Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from China to warrant special treatment.

But it was unclear what steps the Trump administration was prepared to take following Mr Pompeo’s decision.

Evan Medeiros, a former Asia adviser to Barack Obama, said the US could impose the same tariffs, sanctions and export restrictions it applied to mainland China on Hong Kong. But there were other options.

"There’s no question this is a big move, but it’s not . . . all or nothing," he said, pointing to options such as withdrawing from an extradition treaty.

Britain returned its former colony to China in 1997 under the "one country, two systems" model, which guaranteed Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy from Beijing for 50 years. But China has chipped away at those freedoms in recent years. A move to introduce a controversial extradition law that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China sparked months of pro-democracy protests last year, pummeling the economy.

(Published by Financial Times, May 28 2020)

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