In the dispute over the autonomy of Hong Kong, the United States increases its pressure on China – but dhe new sanctions law should further intensify tensions. Beijing responded promptly.
US president Donald Trump has signed a new sanction law against China for dealing with Hong Kong. With that, Beijing should be held accountable for its “oppression” of the people in the special administrative zone, Trump said at a press conference on Tuesday evening (local time) in the rose garden of the White House.
“Their freedom and rights have been taken away from them,” Trump said. The law provides the government with effective new tools to act against individuals and institutions that “wipe out Hong Kong’s freedoms.” The Senate and the House of Representatives had previously unanimously passed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act.
The security law, accompanied by strong international criticism, came into force two weeks ago. It is a reaction of the Beijing leadership to the months-long and sometimes violent protests of the Hong Kong democracy movement last year. The law severely limits civil rights in the special administrative zone. It allowed the Chinese authorities in Hongkong a tough crackdown on all activities that they see as a threat to national security. It is also said to punish “secret agreements” between activists and forces abroad.
The U.S. law provides for sanctions that affect the possession of those affected in the USA frozen and denied entry to the United States. Punitive measures can also be imposed on foreign banks that, from the US perspective, contribute to China’s efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy. For example, US financial institutions may be prohibited from lending to affected banks.
China also takes punitive measures in retaliation
China has announced punitive measures against American citizens and institutions in retaliation for the new US sanctions. A spokesman for the Foreign Office sharply condemned the new sanctions law in Beijing on Wednesday. China must give the “necessary answer” to protect its legitimate interests and impose sanctions on “individuals and entities in the United States”.
Details were not initially disclosed, but a spokesman for the Foreign Office had already threatened in June in response to US plans to impose visa restrictions on US citizens who “misbehave” in Hong Kong issues.
US ends preferential treatment from Hong Kong
Trump also stated in his press appearance that the Hong Kong autonomous special administrative zone would be denied its advantageous legal status. He also signed a decree on this. The metropolis will be treated like part of China in the future, said the president. The government announced this move in late May. In addition to export controls, this should also concern customs duties and the issuance of visas, as was said at the time.
The new US measures are likely to further intensify tensions between the United States and China. Trump again made China responsible for the global spread of the corona virus on Tuesday. When asked, the US President said he had no plans to meet with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping to speak.
The former British crown colony of Hong Kong has been managed largely autonomously since its return to China in 1997 according to the “one country, two systems” principle. The United States sees China’s security law as a clear violation of Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms.
Hong Kong citizens fear restricting their freedoms
The United States had already backed efforts to maintain democracy in Hong Kong last year. The United States Congress passed almost unanimously two laws to support the protests in the Asian metropolis. Trump signed the laws in November. China protested the “open interference in internal affairs”.
Unlike the people in the Communist People’s Republic, the seven million Hong Kong citizens enjoy extensive rights such as freedom of assembly and expression. But now they fear that their freedoms will be increasingly restricted.