Hong Kong Government Dismisses Trump’s Imminent Sanctions Over Security Law

May 31, 2020 Updated: May 31, 2020

Hong Kong and Chinese state-run media have resorted to strongly worded rhetoric against the Trump administration in response to the president’s decision on Friday to rewrite ties with the former British colony.

Trump’s decisions came after Beijing adopted a national security law for Hong Kong on Thursday, which would grant Beijing’s security apparatus the ability to operate in the Chinese-ruled city. Among the measures announced by Trump were revoking Hong Kong’s special trading status with the United States and imposing sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials responsible for “directly or indirectly involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

The Hong Kong government, in a statement released on Saturday night, said that Trump and his administration “continue to smear and demonize” Beijing’s rights to “safeguard national security” in the city.

The statement also accused Trump of ignoring “the facts on the grounds” when the president said on Friday that “China has replaced its promised formula of ‘one country, two systems’ with ‘one country, one system.’”

Before Trump’s Friday remarks on Hong Kong’s political model—whereby Beijing promised to retain Hong Kong’s autonomy upon the city’s transfer of sovereignty from Britain to China in 1997—pro-democracy activists and lawmakers also expressed that with the security law’s passage, “one country, two systems” had come to an end.

Hong Kong Government and Beijing Respond

The Hong Kong government has defended Beijing’s decision to implement the security law, casting aside concerns that the U.S. decision could impact the city’s economy.

“We are not unduly worried by such [U.S.] threats,” the Hong Kong government said, given its trade with the United States accounted for a small percentage of its total trade.

Two Hong Kong officials, Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang, have shrugged off the possibility of being named in the U.S. sanctions, while speaking to local media.

Chinese state-run newspaper People’s Daily accused the United States in a May 31 editorial of “stigmatizing and demonizing” the “legitimacy” of China’s national security law on Hong Kong.

In a commentary published on the same day, it claimed that the United States was playing with “hegemonism” in a “shameless way” with its proposed sanctions.

A day earlier, China’s hawkish state-run media Global Times slammed Trump for “bullying and gross interference in China’s domestic affairs,” adding that China would respond with “firm countermeasures.”

Hong Kong Opposition, US Supporters Back Move

Trump’s announcement on Friday was welcomed by Republican U.S. lawmakers and pro-democracy lawmakers and activists in Hong Kong.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s aggression in Hong Kong has taken away their autonomy and has violated the terms of the Sino-British treaty. We will always stand with the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong and for our shared democratic values,” said Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), GOP leader of the Foreign Affairs Committee, in a press release.

He added: “The Chinese Communist Party officials responsible for these human rights abuses must be held accountable.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) applauded Trump’s decision to “pressure Beijing to honor its commitment to Hong Kongers and their freedoms” in a press release.

“As Beijing once again undermines democracy, we cannot let them profit from violating the Joint Declaration and trying to crush the spirit of Hong Kong’s people,” Rubio said.

On Sunday, Ted Hui, a lawmaker of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party, told local media RTHK that local protesters should not give up in their fight for freedom and democracy.

Three members of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy party Demosistō—Agnes Chow, Nathan Law, and secretary-general Joshua Wong—held a press conference on Saturday, saying they welcomed Trump’s decisions.

Hong Kong
(L-R) Joshua Wong, Nathan Law, and Agnes Chow of the local pro-democracy party Demosistō, hold a press conference in Hong Kong on May 30, 2020. (Xiao Long/The Epoch Times)

Law, a former local lawmaker, said Trump was absolutely right in saying that “one country, one system” is the reality now in Hong Kong. He added that continued protests, international pressure, and ongoing efforts by pro-democracy lawmakers would be needed to force Beijing to drop the security law and answer protesters’ five demands, such as universal suffrage and an independent inquiry into instances of police violence. Such calls emerged in the mass protests triggered by a controversial extradition bill last year.

Wong, an iconic student leader from the 2014 Umbrella Movement, said Trump’s announcement was the symbol of a new era in the U.S.-Hong Kong relationship—the result of Hongkongers’ nonstop protests since June.

“We also encourage more international alliances to stand with Hong Kong. Actions speak louder than words. Apart from issuing statements to oppose the national security law, more important [sic] is also to enhance different kinds of tools to put pressure on Beijing,” Wong added.

The Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) held a press conference on Friday, releasing the results of an online survey polling 10,996 people between May 25 and 28.

Of the 9,477 people who identified themselves as supporters of the local pro-democracy camp, 96 percent said they opposed the national security law.

Meanwhile, 29 percent of respondents who identified themselves as non-supporters of the pro-democracy camp also said they opposed the security law, and 9 percent were neutral.

The Washington-based advocacy group Hong Kong Democracy Council (HKDC), run predominately by Hongkongers in America, welcomed Trump’s decisions in a statement on Friday.

“We hope that it also solidifies a global alliance of defense for Hong Kong.

“If Beijing persists in strangling Hong Kong, the path we are on now leads to ‘lose-lose-lose’ for China, Hong Kong, the U.S., and the world,” HKDC stated.

The Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times contributed to this report. 

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