Nat’l Security Adviser O’Brien: ‘Hard to See’ Hong Kong Remaining the Asian Financial Center if China Takes Over

Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” White House National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien hinted at consequences for Hong Kong if the communist Chinese government takes over.

According to O’Brien, it would be “hard to see” Hong Kong continuing as the Asian financial center it is now with China in charge.

Partial transcript as follows:

TODD: Let me start with the Hong Kong issue. What is the United States government prepared to do if Beijing goes through with basically this crackdown on Hong Kong and moves Hong Kong away from an open marketplace and an open democracy?

O’BRIEN: Well, as you know, Chuck, the Communist Party of China promised Great Britain back in 1984 with the Sino-British declaration that Hong Kong would have a degree of autonomy and would maintain their way of life through 2047.

So, now 27 years before that deadline, it looks like with this national security law, they’re going to basically take over Hong Kong. And if they do, under the 1992 Hong Kong Policy Act and the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, Secretary Pompeo would likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy. And if that happens, there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China.

It’s hard to see how Hong Kong could remain the Asian financial center that it’s become if China takes over.

TODD: Do you want that to be the response? If China does this, do you hope that the financial services community, that global corporations, pull out of Hong Kong immediately?

O’BRIEN: I just don’t see how they can stay. One reason that they came to Hong Kong is because there was the rule of law there, there was a free enterprise system, there was a capitalist system, there was democracy in local legislative elections. If all of those things go away, I’m not sure how the financial community can stay there.

And I think you’re also going to have a terrible brain drain. I think Hong Kong citizens, many of whom can travel under certain circumstances, can travel to the United Kingdom or seek refuge other places, they’re not going to stay in Hong Kong to be dominated by the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party. So, I think if China goes through and imposes this law, which I think would be a big mistake, I think it’s going to be very difficult for the people of Hong Kong.

TODD: Do you really think China is going to be nervous about sanctions and that’s going to stop them at this point? It seems as if he’s so nervous about the demonstrations. Is a threat of sanctions enough to get China to pull back?

O’BRIEN: Well, I think what we can all be proud of are the people of Hong Kong who have taken to the streets to show all of us who enjoy democracy and the rule of law in our countries how precious that is. And they’re out in the streets this weekend demonstrating that they want to be free people, that they want to elect their own leaders and have the right to worship as they see fit and earn a living the way they see fit.

So, look, China’s dependent on capital from the rest of the world. To build their economy and grow their middle class, they’re dependent on liquidity in financial markets. If they lose access of that through Hong Kong, that’s a real blow to Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party. So I hope they’ll take that into account as they contemplate their next step.

TODD: You know, over the last six months, when these demonstrations began, the president was in negotiations on a big trade agreement with Xi and China. And during that time, he, himself, never really got tough, never stood up in support of the demonstrators. Others in the administration did, but he was careful and a lot of reporting said he didn’t want to upset the trade deal.

Did that turn out to be a mistake?

O’BRIEN: No, I don’t think it was a mistake. We want good relations with China and with the Chinese people,. but unfortunately, we’re seeing just action after action by the Chinese Communist Party that makes it difficult. And with respect to the trade deal, we’ll see if they live up to it, but we’re dealing in a new world now with Corona. They unleashed a virus on the world that’s destroyed trillions of dollars in American economic wealth that we’re having to spend to keep our economy alive, to keep Americans afloat during this virus. So we’re in a very different world.

The cover-up that they did of the virus is going to go down in history along with Chernobyl. We’ll see an HBO special about it 10 or 15 years from now. And so, we’re in a different place with China as we speak today, Chuck.

Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor

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