WASHINGTON—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on May 28 condemned actions taken by Beijing to override Hong Kong’s autonomy and said the United States could impose sanctions that include “visa limitations and economic penalties.”
“It’s a brazen move on the part of the Chinese government,” Pelosi said during a press conference.
“Hong Kong is so much a part of the vitality of trade and commerce that goes into mainland China. You would think that they would want that vitality to continue.”
China’s National People Congress approved on May 28 a draft resolution on a so-called national security law for Hong Kong, amid international criticism.
China’s move came after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 27 declared that “Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China” because of the Chinese regime’s efforts to tighten its grip over the city.
Pelosi said she was “disappointed” with the Trump administration’s conclusion on Hong Kong, but also noted that “there’s no other conclusion to come to.”
Pompeo is required to evaluate Hong Kong’s autonomy annually under a bill passed by the U.S. Congress in October 2019—the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019. The U.S. government must ensure that the city is sufficiently autonomous to be able to retain its trading privileges.
“Let’s see what the administration is going to do. There is an array of options in the bill,” Pelosi said. “Sanctions are included, against individuals or other sanctions. We’ll see where they go from here.”
The “one country, two systems” framework that governs the relationship between Hong Kong and Beijing through 2047 allows the city to retain extensive autonomy and freedoms, including a separate legal system. This arrangement has enabled the United States to deal with Hong Kong as a separate entity and offer special treatment in the areas of visas, trade, and investments.
The erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy has been a growing concern for Washington for several years. It’s unclear if the Trump administration will proceed to revoke Hong Kong’s special privileges, which requires an executive order by the president. President Donald Trump said May 28 that he would give a news conference regarding China on May 29.
Pelosi urged other countries to stand with Hong Kong.
“We should all be speaking out against that security act, not just the United States. The EU, people around the world should be speaking out against it,” she said, adding that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is taking “brutal actions” in mainland China, Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong.
Pelosi also released a statement calling for collaboration in responding to Beijing.
“The next step is now for the Administration to work with Congress on an appropriate response. We must consider all tools available, including visa limitations and economic penalties,” she stated.
“If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out elsewhere.”
A group of Democrats led by Rep. Charlie Crist (D-Fla.) sent a letter to House and Senate leadership this week calling on them to pursue bipartisan efforts to investigate the CCP’s botched handling of the COVID-19 outbreak that has crippled the U.S. economy and killed more than 100,000 Americans.
“It is imperative for Members of Congress to work across party lines if we want to influence Chinese policy and to hold the CCP accountable when its actions cross the line, as they have in the case of COVID-19,” the letter said.
“If we retreat to our partisan corners, we will only weaken the United States, strengthen China.”
Pelosi earlier said Trump’s criticism of China for the pandemic is an “interesting diversion” from domestic issues when asked whether Beijing should be held accountable for the delayed COVID-19 response.
House Republicans on May 7 launched a “China Task Force” to investigate Beijing’s role in the spread of the virus. Democrats refused to participate in the panel.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said there are many questions to be raised with respect to China’s mishandling of the virus.
“But unfortunately, the Speaker has a great deal of control in the House. She believes it’s a ‘diversion.’ So Republicans won’t stop there. That’s why we put a task force,” he said during a press conference on May 28.
“It’s good to see that there are some Democrats who disagree with the Speaker. We welcome them to join that task force because we believe we should look at this as Americans together.”