US signs in Symbolic Hong Kong Rights Bill

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US signs in Symbolic Hong Kong Rights Bill

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Since the 15th of March of 2019, citizens of China’s autonomous island region of Hong Kong have been protesting the increase of Chinese economic and political expansion into the region. What originally started as a protest against a bill that allowed Chinese police and military units on the island to take prisoners to China, evolved into a resistance movement against the Chinese Communist Party in general. Much of their demands are linked to abuses of power, police brutality, and the destruction of democratic institutions. The protests were met with violence from the Hong Kong police and the Chinese government while being praised in democratic nations. Recently, US President Donald Trump signed in a veto-proof bill that would act as a symbol of support for pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong. The bill has angered the Chinese government leading to economic repercussions for the US. Many are unsure what the future will hold for US-China relations as well as the fate of the Hong Kong protesters.

To find out more about the protests, check out our story on the subject here!

What does the bill do?

The bill named the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act essentially acts as a symbolic gesture from the United States to the protesters. The bill will have the US State Department review the annual autonomous status, this means that it would have Hong Kong be recognized as a separate economic entity. The other part of the bill puts sanctions on pro-Beijing officials in Hong Kong and prevents the sale of certain materials to Hong Kong, materials such as rubber and chemicals used for tear gas. The bill is said to have leverage over Hong Kong and Chinese politicians, making them choose between territorial politics or economic loss.

 

Impact on the United States

Politically this was a minor victory for the Trump administration. The vast majority of the US population supports the Hong Kong protesters. However, Trump did not brag about the victory, since he was previously against the signing of the bill as it would jeopardize his relations with Chinese Communist Party Chairman, Xi Jinping and any future agreements. Trump stated: that he

 

“Supports the protesters in Hong Kong but Xi Jinping of China is a friend of mine.” 

 

Unfortunately for Trump, the bill passed with a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, meaning the president could not veto the bill.

 

On the economic spectrum, the bill caused the Chinese government to react by banning the US Navy from Hong Kong while restricting their movements nearby. China also has put harsh sanctions on American nonprofit organizations that generate large amounts of profit for the US. Since the signing of the bill, US stocks fell the hardest they have in months in a single day. For Trump, the bill has damaged his dealings with the Chinese governments in trade agreements. To make up for this Trump has been talking about how great Xi Jinping is. As of now, nothing has come from this.

 

Impact on China

China has historically been very sensitive to territorial disputes as it claims the nations of Taiwan and Tibet as part of China. The same can be said about Hong Kong, when the bill was signed, the Chinese government rolled back negotiations with Trump and began to criticize the US for its “unreasonable activity” and support for “chaos, extreme violence, and criminal acts against China”. Chinese communist party officials have claimed that;

 

“They have a large responsibility for the chaos in Hong Kong, and deserve to be sanctioned and pay the price.”

 

The Chinese government has repeatedly condemned the Hong Kong protesters naming them to be “Agents of foreign imperialism”. The US support for the protesters only fits into their narrative. The government has canceled meetings with US diplomats and officials since the signing of the bill.

Impact on Hong Kong  

Hong Kongers were initially skeptical of American support but many embraced the support as it showed some legitimate backing. In Hong Kong, pro-democracy politicians recently won 87% of the seats in local elections. However, even with the pro-democratic parties succeeding in local elections, the central government of Hong Kong is still aligned with China. The bill may influence more to join the protests or possibly give justification for more repression from the police. Further developments may be on the way.

Sources

Cochrane, E. (2019, November 27). Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Legislation That Has Angered China. Retrieved December 3, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/27/us/politics/trump-hong-kong.html.

Klebnikov, S. (2019, December 2). China Retaliates Against Trump Signing Hong Kong Bill, Causing Markets To Drop. Retrieved December 3, 2019, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/sergeiklebnikov/2019/12/02/china-retaliates-against-trump-signing-hong-kong-bill-causing-markets-to-drop/#6287e3dd220f.

Lendon, B. (2019, December 2). China says it is banning US military visits to Hong Kong. Retrieved December 3, 2019, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/02/asia/us-military-hong-kong-intl-hnk-scli/index.html.

Qin, A. (2019, December 2). China Hits Back at U.S. Over Hong Kong Bill in a Mostly Symbolic Move. Retrieved December 3, 2019, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/02/world/asia/china-us-hong-kong-bill-protests.html.