Hong Kong - 8Sep2019: Peaceful march to American consulate calling for help from US President Donald Trump, by passing Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Banner: Save HK, Save the World! (Photo by Jimmy Siu from Shutterstock).

China foreign ministry lambasts US Senate’s passing of “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy” bill, citing interference in China’s internal affairs

The People’s Republic of China’s foreign ministry has strongly criticised the United States, following the Senate’s passing of a bill that supports the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Geng Shuang, a spokesperson from the ministry, said in a statement on Wed (20 Nov) that China “strongly condemns and opposes” the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”, and that the Senate’s passing of the bill is a grave violation of international law and international relations norms.

“We call on the US side to take a clear look at the situation and take steps to stop the act from becoming a law, and stop meddling in the internal affairs of China and Hong Kong, to avoid setting a fire that would only burn itself,” Geng added.

“If the US sticks to its course, China will surely take forceful measures to resolutely oppose it to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests,” he warned.

China’s foreign ministry added that Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu had summoned US embassy’s minister counselor for political affairs William Klein in Beijing, demanding the US to cease interfering in Hong Kong’s affairs, which he deems are an internal matter for China.

The Senate, which is the upper house of the US Congress, had also passed a separate bill banning certain ammunition and exports to the Hong Kong police such as tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.

The two chambers of Congress, the other being the House of Representatives, will need to negotiate on the differences between the Senate bill and the lower house’s bill, before it can be sent to be signed by President Donald Trump.

Hong Kong government “expressed deep regret” over passage of US Senate bill

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government on the same day “expressed deep regret” over the passage of the US Senate’s bill, and deemed both proposed Acts as “unnecessary and unwarranted”, CNBC reported a Hong Kong government spokesperson as saying.

“They will also harm the relations and common interests between Hong Kong and the US,” the spokesperson added.

“Since the return to the Motherland, the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) has been exercising ‘Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong’ and a high degree of autonomy in strict accordance with the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

“The ‘one country, two systems’ principle has been fully and successfully implemented,” said the spokesperson.

Bloomberg observed, however, that it is unlikely for the US government to wield its power “in the near future to revoke Hong Kong’s special trading status — like similar anti-China legislation requiring high-level diplomatic and military visits to Taiwan”.

Such is because “any Americans stand to lose money if some $38 billion in two-way trade is thrown into doubt”, Bloomberg added.

The government of Hong Kong in a statement also highlighted that “[a]ny unilateral change of U.S. economic and trade policy towards Hong Kong will create a negative impact on the relations between the two sides as well as the U.S.’s own interests”.

Passing of bill on Hong Kong’s democracy a consequence of “the steady effort on the part of Chinese authorities to erode” Hong Kong’s autonomy: US Senator Marco Rubio

US Senator Marco Rubio, who proposed the bill on Hong Kong’s democracy, said in Washington on Tue evening: “The United States has treated commerce and trade with Hong Kong differently than it has commercial and trade activity with the mainland of China … But what’s happened over the last few years is the steady effort on the part of Chinese authorities to erode that autonomy and those freedoms.”

“Today, the United States Senate sent a clear message to Hong Kongers fighting for their long-cherished freedoms: we hear you, we continue to stand with you, and we will not stand idly by as Beijing undermines your autonomy,” said Rubio, a Republican Senator from the State of Florida.

Rick Scott, another Republican Senator from Florida, last week condemned Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for allegedly prioritising his economic and political deals with Beijing at the expense of “human rights” in Hong Kong.

He branded Lee’s “shaming” of the Hong Kong pro-democracy protestors “fighting for their human rights” as “shameful”.

Scott is a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party, and has stated that the protests in Hong Kong are a sign of “Democracy in action”, and not an “abuse of Democracy”.

The special administrative region has been rocked by seismic pro-democracy protests for nearly eight months, which began as a rally against a controversial extradition Bill on 31 Mar. While the Bill has now been fully withdrawn by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the movement has expanded into rallying calls for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.

The four other demands placed by the protesters from the Hong Kong government are the resignation of Carrie Lam as Chief Executive, an inquiry into police brutality during the protests, the release of those arrested during the course of the protests, and greater democratic freedoms.

Director at Australian think tank Lowy Institute Ben Bland told CNBC that the current scale of the protests “has caught the Hong Kong government off-guard”.

“No one really expected we would see this level of defiance, of violence, but also of unity from the supporters of democracy in Hong Kong … It has caught Beijing off-guard. It has caught the rest of the world off-guard,” he added.

Bland predicted, however, that there is a possibility that “they are going to be squeezing Hong Kong harder on so many fronts more prosecutions, more assertive action from the police, and in fact more direct control over Hong Kong from the authorities in Beijing”.

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