Kiss Hong Kong’s Autonomy Goodbye

The Wall Street Journal reports China Votes to Override Hong Kong’s Autonomy on National Security.

China’s legislature approved a resolution to impose national-security laws on Hong Kong, overriding the territory’s partial autonomy in a bid to crush anti-Beijing protests that have challenged Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Thursday’s vote, at the end of a weeklong session of the National People’s Congress, paves the way for Beijing to implement legal and enforcement measures in Hong Kong that mirror how mainland Chinese agencies police activities that challenge Communist Party rule.It also sets China on a collision course with the U.S., which has accused Beijing of reneging on its pledge to respect the city’s self-governance. Washington has signaled it may take measures in response by declaring that it no longer considers Hong Kong autonomous from Beijing.

Trump’s Hong Kong Moment

Also consider Trump’s Hong Kong Moment

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to certify that “Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China,” which under U.S. law can trigger sanctions and the withdrawal of trade and other benefits.

While “this decision gives me no pleasure,” Mr. Pompeo said, “sound policy making requires a recognition of reality.” China’s action to impose a national security law that will supercede Hong Kong’s Basic Law means Mr. Pompeo had little choice under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which President Trump signed in November.

The law built on earlier U.S. efforts to protect Hong Kong’s autonomy that the Chinese promised the British for 50 years in 1997. This includes special U.S. treatment for Hong Kong on everything from trade, visas and customs to cooperation on banking and law enforcement. The law’s logic is that if there is no longer much difference between Hong Kong and China, then those privileges shouldn’t apply.

How Might Trump Respond?

  1. Restricts visas
  2. New export restrictions 
  3. Restrict investments
  4. Sanctions

The first three hurt citizens of Hong Kong more than China. Number four could, depending on the precise sanctions.

Export restrictions hurt US technology companies.

Generalized Visa restrictions will hurt the US travel industry and schools. The US could impose visa restrictions on Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, but where is she going anyway? 

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Senators Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) and Pat Toomey (R., Pa.)  drafted legislation that would sanction anyone who undermines the legal autonomy and rights that China promised Hong Kong. 

Trump Will React By the End of the Week

Trump has promised action by the end of the week, but Chinese spokesman say Trump will blink.

It's likely Trump targets Carrie Lam. Her actions kicked off the protests, but the decision to impose news laws on Hong Kong came from Beijing.

The Wall Street Journal wants Trump to respond, but the only thing that does not hurt both Hong Kong and the US is financial sanctions under the Magnitsky Act.

Would that change anything?

No. 

Other than taking symbolic measures or hurting US interests as well, there is little Trump can do.

More importantly, there is little the US should do. US interventions have a horrid track record do they not?

Finally, a friend of mine just pointed out the Hong Kong agreement was negotiated between the UK and China. The US is not party to that agreement.

China will break the agreement but why should it be up to the US to enforce it? And how many agreements did Trump break?

Mish

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