11/21/2019, 00.00
CHINA – UNITED STATES – HONG KONG
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Chorus of criticism from Beijing against US bill on democracy in Hong Kong

by Paul Wang

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act provides for sanctions against government officials in Hong Kong and China who harm human rights and freedom in the territory. The bill will become law when Trump signs it. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi calls it "madness". For Xie Feng, China’s representative in Hong Kong, it is a “violation of China’s internal affairs”.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Various Chinese government officials have slammed the decision by the US Senate to vote in favour of a bill on Hong Kong democracy already approved by the House of Representatives. The bill now only needs President Donald Trump’s signature to become law.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act provides for sanctions against government officials in Hong Kong and China who harm human rights and freedom in the territory.

The bill also requires the US Secretary of State to verify whether Hong Kong has enough autonomy from Beijing to retain the distinct trading status that protects the city from the tariffs the US imposed on Chinese imports last year.

Over the past six months, protesters at anti-extradition rallies called on the United States to adopt such the law, sparking harsh criticism from Beijing.

In a meeting today with former US Secretary of Defence William Cohen in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi described the legislation as “madness”, noting that it will damage bilateral relations.

Xie Feng, the Foreign Ministry’s commissioner to Hong Kong – China’s top diplomat in the city – summoned US consul general Hanscom Smith on Wednesday to say that the approval of the act by US lawmakers was an affront to the “will of the international community” and a “violation of China’s internal affairs”.

In Beijing two days ago, Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu had also called in William Klein, the US Embassy’s minister counsellor for political affairs over the bill.

The National People’s Congress Foreign Affairs Committee and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Foreign Affairs Committee also condemned it.

Mainland China’s liaison office in Hong Kong said violent protests in the city should not be tolerated in any civilised society, and it was wrong for US politicians to “beautify their terror acts”.

In the US Congress, the bill was backed by both Republicans and Democrats. However, the US Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong warned of “possible unintended, counterproductive consequences”.

Sanctions and duties might penalise Chinese companies, but the population of Hong Kong might be affected negatively as well.

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