China lashed out at the United States with incendiary rhetoric after the U.S. House and Senate passed two bills supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
The House voted 417–1 to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act on Nov. 21, which had unanimously passed through the Senate the day prior. Lawmakers said they believed the measures would serve as a warning against Hong Kong and Chinese authorities from cracking down on ongoing Hong Kong demonstrations.
The legislation is now headed to the president’s desk to veto or sign.
The act would require the State Department to certify, at least annually, whether Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous from mainland China for the United States to consider it a separate trade entity.
Since Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997, under the express guarantee that its autonomy would be preserved, the United States has dealt with the city as a separate region from mainland China in matters of trade, investment, and immigration.
Nearly six months of protests against perceived encroachment by Beijing have rocked Hong Kong and brought growing fears of a ruthless crackdown from Beijing. Police have arrested around 5,000 protesters and fired more than 10,000 rounds of tear gas across Hong Kong since June.
The Chinese regime didn’t waste time in reacting to the bill’s passage. In a period of about five and a half hours on Nov. 20, Chinese state-run media Xinhua published 31 related news reports, all of which featured words of criticism from various Chinese government bodies.
News related to the U.S. bill took up half of the primetime news program that aired on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV on Nov. 20. In a subsequent CCTV article, the outlet said that it had “fired off” 12 reports, with each of them being a “powerful counterattack” to the United States.
Also on Nov. 20, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Geng Shuang, said the United States must “immediately take measures to prevent the act from becoming law” or risk seeing “strong countermeasures” from Beijing.
An unnamed foreign ministry representative in the Hong Kong office further accused U.S. politicians of “confusing right and wrong” and “taking advantage of the Hong Kong chaos to loot a burning house.”
The ministry representative statement ended with the ominous expression, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” a phrase historically used by the Chinese regime to threaten warfare.
The Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper People’s Daily has only used the phrase three times previously: in May, during an escalation of trade tensions with the United States; ahead of the 1962 war with India; and prior to the 1979 invasion of Vietnam.
At least six other government agencies—including the Foreign Affairs Committee under China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, Hong Kong Liaison Office, Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Foreign Affairs Committee, and the State Council—have voiced similarly worded rhetoric over the past two days.
Two separate editorials by the state-run newspaper China Daily described the bill as “a piece of waste paper” that encouraged violence.
“From the surface, the act seems innocent. Who doesn’t like human rights and democracy? But the true scheme hidden behind is far more sinister than what the name reveals,” a Nov. 21 China Daily editorial stated. Through the bill, the United States intends to “demonize its enemies,” it said.
Responding to Beijing’s accusations of foreign meddling in Hong Kong affairs, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a lead sponsor of the Senate bill, said that the legislation had “nothing to do with the internal affairs of China” but rather a U.S. policy toward China and Hong Kong.
“Right now, commerce from Hong Kong and trade with Hong Kong that China conducts is treated as different from what’s happening with the mainland, and that’s entirely justified and built on the idea that Hong Kong retains a high degree of autonomy and political freedoms,” Rubio told The Epoch Times’ affiliate NTD on Nov. 19.
If Hong Kong becomes no different from China, then “there’s no longer justification” for the special trade status, he said.
At the U.S. bill-signing ceremony on Nov. 21, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the legislation showed “what the Americans think about the Chinese Communist Party treatment of Hong Kong.”
“You cannot be a great nation when you oppose freedom, deny civil liberties, and brutally suppress your own people from one end to the other,” he said.
“History is not kind to those who peddle in autocracy and suppression.”