US, Chinese Officials Spar Over Hong Kong Security Law

May 25, 2020 Updated: May 26, 2020

The Chinese regime on May 25 warned that it would take countermeasures if the United States takes action to undermine its interests in Hong Kong. The remarks came in response to comments from Washington about potential sanctions over a new national security law planned for the city.

White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told NBC on May 24 that the draft legislation may lead to sanctions under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. Under this federal law, the secretary of state must certify every year if Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from the mainland to justify trading privileges granted by the United States.

The legislation also paves the way for sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in rights abuses in the city.

“It looks like, with this national security law, they’re going to basically take over Hong Kong and if they do … Secretary Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy and if that happens there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China,” O’Brien said.

Beijing last week confirmed that its rubber-stamp parliament was going to push through a national security law for Hong Kong, bypassing the city’s legislature. The law would ban secession, subversion, terrorism, and foreign interference, and could lead to the regime setting up its intelligence agencies in the city. The move has sparked an outcry in Hong Kong and has drawn international condemnation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters during a May 25 briefing that Beijing has lodged stern representations with Washington about O’Brien’s comments that the security law for Hong Kong could lead to U.S. sanctions.

Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, also said on May 25 the regime would “allow no external interference” to Hong Kong and cited the 2019 pro-democracy protests as a reason for the introduction of the new law. The regime has consistently blamed “foreign forces” for fomenting the mass protests against a now-scrapped extradition bill that would have allowed people in Hong Kong to be taken to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the regime.

Critics say that law would allow the regime to quash dissenting voices under the pretext of security.

O’Brien said the move would also jeopardize Hong Kong’s status as an international financial hub.

“I just don’t see how [the financial industry] can stay,” he said. “One reason that they came to Hong Kong is because there was the rule of law there, there was a free-enterprise system, there was a capitalist system, there was democracy and local legislative elections. If all those things go away, I’m not sure how the financial community can stay there.”

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