Beijing accuses US lawmakers of ‘sinister intention to destroy HK’, threatens to retaliate

17-Oct-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Beijing warned on Wednesday that it would take countermeasures to stop the US “interfering in its internal affairs” after condemning the House of Representatives for passing an act in support of Hong Kong’s anti-government protesters, moving the legislation closer to becoming law.

In a fiery statement, China’s foreign ministry expressed “strong indignation and resolute opposition” to the lower chamber of the US Congress passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Bill, which would assess annually whether the city was sufficiently autonomous from China to justify a special trade status with the United States.

“With regards to the incorrect decision by the US, China must take strong countermeasures to firmly safeguard its sovereignty, safety and developmental interests,” ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said. “If the relevant bill is ultimately passed into law, not only will it harm Chinese interests but it will damage China-US relations and seriously damage the US’ own interests.”

The foreign ministry said that Hong Kong did not face “so-called human rights and democracy issues”, but that some in the US harboured “sinister intentions to destroy Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability and to contain China’s development”.

“The US House of Representatives ignores the facts and has reversed black and white, describing serious crimes such as arson, damaging shops and violent assaults as issues of human rights and democracy, exposing a naked double standard,” the spokesperson said.

The latest movement on the US act was expected to intensify tensions in the ongoing strategic rivalry between China and the US, and follows four months of increasingly violent clashes between protesters and police in Hong Kong, triggered by opposition to a now-shelved extradition bill that would have allowed the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China’s opaque legal system.

On Tuesday, the House also passed an act to restrict exports of crowd-control products such as tear gar to Hong Kong where police have been accused of excessive force in handling demonstrators and a resolution recognising the city’s relationship with the US, condemning Beijing’s “interference” in Hong Kong’s affairs and supporting its people’s right to protest.

Beijing’s top office in Hong Kong policy also slammed the House early on Wednesday for its “gross interference” in China’s internal affairs and what it described as playing the “Hong Kong card” to undermine China. It made references to a protester who allegedly slashed a police officer on the neck, destruction of subway facilities, and home-made explosives.

“This kind of behaviour has grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs and is openly adding support to the opposition forces and radical forces in Hong Kong,” the office spokesman Yang Guang said in a statement.

“It has exposed the political plot of the US House of Representatives and some politicians to use Hong Kong to contain China’s development.”

In a lengthy statement responding to developments in Washington, the Hong Kong government “expressed regret” over the passage of the act.

It said the government had implemented the “one country, two systems” principle under which Hong Kong was handed over from Britain to China in 1997 but retained a degree of autonomy “fully and successfully” in line with the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily said in a commentary ahead of the US act’s passage that Hong Kong was a “core interest” of China on which it would never make concessions.

The US legislation could sanction Hong Kong’s leaders and allow protesters to work or study in the US if they had been arrested for “certain non-violent protests”. It will need to be passed by the Senate, the upper chamber, before US President Donald Trump decides whether to sign it into law.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the House she took issue with those who bowed to Beijing out of economic self-interest following the high-profile saga between China and US basketball over a member of staff’s tweet in support of Hong Kong protesters.

“To those who want to take the repressive government’s side in this discussion, I say to you: What does it profit a person if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his soul?” she said.

Although the Hong Kong protesters’ core demands include universal suffrage, accountability for police violence and amnesty for protesters, Beijing has portrayed the demonstrations as a separatist movement with backing from “foreign forces” such as the US. Chinese analysts said that Beijing’s “countermeasures” may not go far beyond its incendiary rhetoric, but that there may be a slight impact on ongoing negotiations between Beijing and Washington to resolve their prolonged trade war.

Shi Yinhong, a prominent international affairs expert from Renmin University in Beijing, said that the passing of the bill would infuriate Beijing, which would “worsen the atmosphere for the China-US trade talks”.

“China will definitely enact countermeasures if the bill causes a negative impact to Hong Kong’s social stability, financial and political interests, and China’s national pride, but it is difficult to predict what those will be specifically it is difficult for anyone to guess,” he said. “But the force of Chinese countermeasures is typically weaker compared to the US.”

Liu Weidong, a US affairs expert from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the bill itself was “not a very big issue” given that the US had passed similar legislation previously that Beijing said “interfered in China’s affairs”, but which drew only denunciations from the foreign ministry.

Asked whether the US act could escalate the unrest and provoke a sterner response from Beijing, Liu said: “I don’t think the bill will prompt Beijing to send military troops into Hong Kong, since Beijing still emphasizes the one country, two systems framework to allow the Hong Kong government itself to handle the crisis.

“For the trade talks, I believe there will be limited impact, because the negotiations are held between the two countries while this bill comes from the US Congress.”


Category: China

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