human-rights 02 July 2020

China says US interference ‘doomed to fail’ as Congress passes HK Autonomy Act

The United States House of Representatives has passed legislation, the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which would, if signed into law by the US President, impose secondary sanctions on foreign banks banks that engage in ‘significant transactions’ with persons, companies or entities involved in suppressing Hong Kong’s freedoms and violating the special administrative region’s (SAR) autonomy. The move is in response to Beijing’s decision to press ahead with a ‘national security law’ which imposes stiff penalties for anti-government protests.

On 29 June, the US departments of State and Commerce each announced measures resulting from the revocation of Hong Kong’s ‘special status’.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said: ‘With the Chinese Communist Party’s imposition of new security measures on Hong Kong, the risk that sensitive U.S. technology will be diverted to the People’s Liberation Army or Ministry of State Security has increased, all while undermining the territory’s autonomy. Those are risks the U.S. refuses to accept and have resulted in the revocation of Hong Kong’s special status.

‘Commerce Department regulations affording preferential treatment to Hong Kong over China, including the availability of export license exceptions, are suspended.’

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: ‘As Beijing moves forward with passing the national security law, the United States will today end exports of US-origin defense equipment and will take steps toward imposing the same restrictions on [exports of] U.S. defense and dual-use technologies to Hong Kong as it does for China.’

Under the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, now passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the US President would be obliged to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for passing and enforcing the security law, and secondary sanctions on foreign banks that are involved in ‘ significant transactions’ with persons or entities that ‘contravene the obligations of China under the Joint Declaration or the Basic Law’, the suite of legislation that replaced British colonial law at the time of the ‘handover’ in 1997.

In a 1 July statement, UK foreign minister Dominic Raab told the House of Commons, ‘I have the depressing but necessary duty to report to the House that the enactment of this legislation, imposed by the authorities in Beijing on the people of Hong Kong, constitutes a clear and serious breach of the Joint Declaration,’ and that as part of its response, the British government would grant to Hong Kong citizens with British National Overseas (BN(O)) status, ‘…5 years limited leave to remain, with the right to work or study’ and subsequent rights to apply for settled status, and ultimately citizenship.’

In a 30 June statement, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded: ‘Hong Kong is one of China’s special administrative regions and its affairs are China’s internal affairs. The Chinese government is firmly determined to implement “one country, two systems” and oppose foreign interference in Hong Kong affairs. Nobody and nothing could shake the Chinese government and people’s resolution and will to safeguard national sovereignty and security and uphold Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability. Any attempt seeking to undermine China’s sovereignty, security and development interests is doomed to fail.’