May 28, 2020

Hong Kong

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has notified Congress that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China… Pompeo’s certification comes amid calls in Congress and elsewhere for the U.S. and others to react against Beijing’s move to impose Chinese national security laws over the territory.” AP News

Both sides condemn China and call on the US and its allies to take action:

“A national security law in itself is not necessarily a problem. Every country has a responsibility to protect its national security. But this should never be at the expense of fundamental rights and freedoms… The proposed law as it stands is a flagrant violation of Hong Kong’s obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As the last governor of Hong Kong Chris Patten says, it is ‘a comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms’...

“Even worse than introducing this controversial law — which drew 500,000 people onto the streets the last time it was attempted in 2003 — is the idea of ramming it through via the national people’s congress, completely bypassing — and thus fatally neutering — Hong Kong’s legislative council. It makes a mockery of any remaining pretense of the ‘high degree of autonomy’ promised by the Joint Declaration.”
Benedict Rogers, Spectator USA

“Chinese officials claim the law is meant to target the alleged ‘foreign influence’ China says is driving the unrest in Hong Kong. But that is largely disinformation; China has blamed outsiders for fueling violence in Hong Kong to deny the grassroots resistance. The reality is that the law is very clearly targeted as a catchall against dissent and anyone challenging Beijing’s authority. China has, at least rhetorically, honored the ‘one country, two systems’ rule. In practice, though, it has sought greater and greater control over Hong Kong. The national security law is merely a much more direct and obvious step toward what Beijing has been trying to accomplish for years: one country, one system.”
Jen Kirby, Vox

“The proposed measure is extremely concerning not just because the specifics are likely to be vague and overbroad in language, exposing pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong to increased and more severe persecution, but because Article 23 also calls for measures banning any ‘foreign political organization’ from operating in Hong Kong. This could push out any remaining international observers, eliminating global attention on Hong Kong's fight for freedom

“It is clear that Xi Jinping has grown tired of pretending Hong Kong has any kind of autonomy. Under his leadership, the CCP will try to cut Hong Kong off from the international community so that its pro-democracy movement loses steam, giving the Chinese government more space to end the city's already-declining freedom.”
Joy Park, CNN

“The proposed national-security bill not only reveals that the CCP cannot be trusted to honor its international agreements. The bigger story is Mr. Xi’s willingness to aggressively move against any potential separatist movements, regardless of international law or morality. Beijing’s move to take over Hong Kong cannot be separated from its stamping out of Chinese civil society, as well as its brutal crackdowns in Xinjiang and Tibet…

“While Washington’s direct options are limited, China should be forced to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning its abrogation of Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Travel bans on high-ranking CCP officials and military officers should also be considered, especially if violence is used against any new demonstrations, as should further sanctions on technology transfer to China. Finally, once the law is passed by Beijing, Washington should offer immediate asylum to Hong Kong’s democratic leaders, as well as to prominent academics, business leaders, artists, and the like, who will be most at risk.”
Michael Auslin, National Review

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“China’s full-scale assault on democracy in Hong Kong demands a U.S. response — but a careful one… Hong Kong has enjoyed [special trading privileges] under U.S. law since 1992. Under an amendment Congress adopted last year, the State Department must issue a report on whether the territory remains ‘sufficiently autonomous’ to justify the measures, which include exemption from tariffs applied to mainland exports…

“If a negative report by the State Department led to a repeal of the privileges, Hong Kong’s economy would be devastated — as would a lot of U.S. businesses. The estimated $38 billion in annual U.S.-Hong Kong trade would be at stake; so would the regional headquarters that some 290 U.S. companies maintain in the city. The result could be to speed the conversion of China’s most free city into just another provincial capital, which is not in the U.S. interest, let alone Hong Kong’s. A more effective response would look something like that proposed by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who would sanction Chinese entities that compromise Hong Kong’s autonomy; it would also sanction banks that do business with those entities.”
Editorial Board, Washington Post

“When the history books detail the Trump administration's posture on China, they will tell a tale of two policies. The State Department and the Commerce Department, for example, have taken an increasingly punitive stance against China while the intelligence community has laid out the threats that China poses to US elections, arms control, cyberspace, and more. Trump, on the other hand, clung to China as he worked to iron out a trade deal, often parroting the ruling Communist Party's (CCP) propaganda on issues like Hong Kong and, at times, praising China on crises like the coronavirus…

“In the days ahead, Trump's team should be working overtime to try to convince global partners in Europe and around the world -- and the President himself -- to lay out the costs for China if it destroys Hong Kong's autonomy. One of the team's biggest battles may be convincing the President himself. He's prioritized trade with China over all else to date, and human rights haven't been top of his agenda. Right now, however, politics may persuade him to act.”
Samantha Vinograd, CNN

“The only way the U.S. might be able to fight back against Xi’s consolidation of power in Hong Kong (and in general) would be by coordinating a multilateral response among the dozens of rich and middle-income countries China depends on to buy its goods…

“But it’s practically impossible for the U.S. to lead an effective pressure campaign against a superpower that is more engaged with the international community than it is… And if anyone in Washington is thinking, ‘Well, hey, if things really go south we can easily beat China in a shooting war’ — in nearly every war game against China the Pentagon has conducted in the past ten years, the U.S. has lost… Hong Kong’s independence may not survive the pandemic.”
Jonah Shepp, New York Magazine

From the Right

Revoking U.S. benefits for Hong Kong is warranted. The city-state has become a cash cow for Beijing. After abrogating its commitments to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy, China should pay a heavy price. At the same time, such a move would also punish Hong Kongers who have shown remarkable resilience over the last year as China has encroached on their freedoms. So Trump should consider a second policy as well: Offer Hong Kong’s citizens who do not wish to live in a totalitarian state an opportunity to become Americans…

“[This] would be a way to punish the Chinese Communist Party, creating the conditions for a brain drain. All of the financial and creative genius that has prospered in Hong Kong’s open society will now have an incentive to leave… Hong Kong is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, and the U.S. has a chance to benefit from the human capital that created that wealth.”
Eli Lake, Bloomberg

“Under the terms of the 2019 Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, the United States should identify the specific individuals—both in Beijing and in Hong Kong—responsible for trampling on the rights and autonomy of the Hong Kong people, and impose targeted sanctions, blocking their assets in the United States and revoking or denying visas for them and their family members. It is important that we lobby our democratic allies—including Britain, Canada, and Australia—to join us in these measures…

“Beyond this, Hong Kong’s brave democrats need help. As these new national security measures take effect, democratic leaders in the city will be at grave risk. They need steadfast moral and diplomatic support from democracies and democrats worldwide. We should also do much more to help Hong Kong’s independent media and civil society organizations, including new digital media and advocacy efforts that may now need (as in other autocracies) to base themselves partly abroad to evade repression. And we should grant a special immigrant visa to anyone in Hong Kong who is at risk of repression.”
Larry Diamond, American Interest

“For Trump, this couldn’t come at a worse time. The president has never been especially sympathetic or interested in the protest movements against the Chinese Communist Party. Although Trump signed a law last year expressing support for Hong Kong’s democracy activists, he did so with reservation. The last thing he wanted was to do something that would jeopardize a trade negotiation with Beijing that, at that point in time, was highly vulnerable to breaking down…

“The Hong Kong issue will almost certainly stall the beginnings of a Phase 2 trade negotiation for the remainder of the year. Depending on how Trump responds to the latest developments, Phase 1 could even be at risk… Trump could be staring at a trade deal fluttering in the wind rather than one he could use on the campaign trail to demonstrate his administration’s success in finally introducing reciprocity in the U.S.-China trade relationship.”
Daniel DePetris, Washington Examiner

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