export-controls 12 September 2019

US senators urge Hong Kong export controls

A bipartisan group of US senators, led by Republican Jim Risch and Democrat Bob Menendez, has written to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, ‘requesting an assessment of the adequacy of U.S. export controls with respect to Hong Kong.’

The senators’ main concerns include ‘Mainland China’s potential abuse of Hong Kong’s special treatment under U.S. law to illicitly secure sensitive technologies; and the use of crowd control equipment against Hong Kong protesters.’

The letter reads in part:

‘Since its handover to China in 1997, Hong Kong’s open investment environment has been a source of growth for China, as well as a conduit for closer ties with the United States and other advanced economies. More recently, Hong Kong has become an integral part of China’s signature foreign policy initiative – the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which includes a digital component known as the Digital Silk Road.

‘We believe it is critical that the United States take appropriate measures to ensure China does not abuse Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law to steal or otherwise acquire critical or sensitive U.S. equipment and technologies in support of its strategic objectives or to infringe on the rights of people in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.

‘Our concern that Beijing could abuse Hong Kong’s special status is growing because the autonomy guaranteed to Hong Kong in the Sino-British Joint Declaration has eroded significantly in recent years. This trend is most evident in declining political and civil liberties for the Hong Kong people through abductions, the banning of a political party, expulsion of journalists, and the arbitrary jailing of peaceful protest leaders and activists. Had it become law, an extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong government earlier this year would have had direct implications for U.S. citizen interests and bilateral law enforcement cooperation, raising concern about whether other areas of U.S.-Hong Kong cooperation are implicated in China’s growing encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy.’

It adds:

‘A related concern is whether current export control laws allow U.S. persons to inappropriately export police equipment to Hong Kong, which may be used to suppress legitimate civil dissent. In the last several weeks of protests, Hong Kong police have used tear gas extensively to disperse protesters. They have also used rubber bullets (including allegedly at close range) and beat protesters with batons, inconsistent with acceptable norms of treatment of civilians by law enforcement.’