Thursday 28 November 2019
For a long time, Donald Trump has been stingy when it comes to supporting the Hong Kong democratic movement. But now the president of the United States is forced to bless the laws of Congress. Beijing's reaction is ready.
The Hong Kong democratic movement has reason to celebrate, but the Beijing government is likely to be angry: the United States has given new support to efforts to preserve democracy in the Chinese special administrative region. US President Donald Trump has signed two previous unanimously approved laws from Congress that should support the months of protests underway in the Asian metropolis.
The laws were designed to ensure that representatives of China and Hong Kong "amicably resolve their differences to achieve lasting peace and prosperity for all," said Trump Wednesday night (local time). This was done "out of respect" for Chinese President Xi Jinping and the people of Hong Kong. The laws passed by Congress last week now come into force with Trump's signature. China had previously urged Trump to veto the laws and otherwise threatened the United States with "bitter countermeasures". However, Trump had little choice: if he vetoed it, he would expect to be canceled by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress. It would have been a novelty in Trump's term.
Trump has so far held back with criticism of China's brutal actions against the Hong Kong democratic movement. Try to reach an agreement with Beijing in the one and a half year trade war between the two major economies that should be made even more difficult by the entry into force of the law. China's reaction was not slow to arrive. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry rebelled in Beijing: "The United States is ignoring the facts, exchanging in black and white, blatantly supporting violent criminals who have beaten and burned innocent people, trampled the rule of law and endangered the 39; social order ".
The laws have only made the Chinese people and the people of Hong Kong more aware of "the bad intentions and the hegemonic nature of the United States," the spokesman said of a "US conspiracy". The Chinese government is adamant in its resistance to interference by foreign forces in Hong Kong. "We advise the United States not to act arbitrarily, otherwise China will take decisive measures and all the consequences must be borne by the United States".
The position should be checked every year
The United States Congress had adopted the Hong Kong "Decree on Human Rights and Democracy", despite Beijing's fierce protests and threats with a single vote against the House of Representatives. Among other things, the law threatens economic sanctions that could deprive Hong Kong of its preferential treatment of US economic and trade policies with China. It would be a blow to the metropolis. The State Department now plans to present annual reports to Congress to determine whether Hong Kong is still sufficiently autonomous from China to further justify preferential treatment. Civil rights should be given special consideration.
The law also provides for the President to impose sanctions on people held responsible for serious human rights violations in Hong Kong. Another law banning the export of tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and handcuffs to the Hong Kong police was unanimously approved by both the House and the Senate.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio praised Trump for signing the laws. "The United States now has significant tools to prevent Beijing from further influencing and interfering with Hong Kong's internal affairs," he said. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez said the laws have a clear message for the people of Hong Kong who resisted the erosion of their democracy: "We support you".
Trump leaves the backdoor open
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, on the other hand, had already criticized the Congress after the adoption that "the ordinance on human rights and democracy" was a blatant interference in China's internal affairs. Basically, it's about throwing Hong Kong further into chaos or even destroying it.
Trump, however, apparently tried to keep a small loophole open. The government will treat parts of the differentiated laws, so as not to compromise the constitutional authority of the president in matters of foreign policy, wrote Trump after the signing. Initially, the White House did not explain to which steps the restriction was applied. Given the bipartisan support in Congress, the president may have no choice but to apply the law.
The protests in Hong Kong have been going on for five months. They are directed against the government, the brutal police actions and the growing influence of the communist leadership in Beijing. Since its return to China in 1997, Hong Kong has been governed independently by Chinese sovereignty according to the "one country, two systems" principle. Unlike the people of the PRC, the seven million Hong Kong residents enjoy far-reaching rights such as freedom of assembly and expression. Meanwhile, they fear that their freedoms are increasingly limited.