China Considers Sanctions on U.S. for Hong Kong Human Rights Act

Mark Schiefelbein, AP
Mark Schiefelbein, AP

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper floated on Friday the possibility of “sanctions on individuals and entities” supporting Congress’s bill protecting human rights in Hong Kong, despite China’s years-long insistence that it opposes unilateral sanctions.

The Global Times insisted that “some experts,” not the Chinese communist regime, are suggesting targeted sanctions on vocal supporters of human rights in China in response to the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which has passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate and will soon arrive at President Donald Trump’s desk.

The newspaper did not go on to speculate which individuals or entities could find themselves in the crosshairs of Chinese sanctions other than lawmakers and “relevant” companies. The bill passed both houses of Congress unanimously, which means every member of Congress could face sanctions.

“The US move, an open support for hysterical mobs in Hong Kong and a bargaining chip in trade talks, could create uncertainty for not only the [Hong Kong] economy but also put businesses from around the world in Hong Kong, including from the U.S., at serious risk,” the Global Times claimed.

The Hong Kong act would require Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to issue an annual report on the state of human rights in Hong Kong and could remove the city’s special trade status, significantly limiting economic activity, if the report finds China is repressing the people of Hong Kong. It also creates avenues for Hong Kong residents participating in pro-democracy protests to override limitations on U.S. visa access if they are arrested or otherwise blacklisted for doing so.

The Global Times insisted that such measures would significantly harm both American and Chinese businesses and that Washington would have to face punishment for passing the act. It went on to say that Beijing could impose unilateral sanctions on America over the bill.

“As a tit-for-tat move, China could also put forward sanctions on individuals and entities that violate China’s sovereignty and hurt China’s national security and interests, some experts suggested,” according to the report:

“Possible measures include restricting US lawmakers who interfere in China’s internal affairs,” Liang Haiming, a Hong Kong economist, told the Global Times on Thursday. He said that China could also blacklist “relevant” US companies and hold back cooperation with the US on some global issues.

The article did not identify any particular lawmakers or companies on the top of that blacklist.

The newspaper cited a spokesman for the Hong Kong government discussing not individual sanctions, but an end to economic and law enforcement cooperation between Hong Kong and the United States.

The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, published a screed on Friday calling the congressional bill “a vain attempt to interfere in China’s internal affairs” and “a barefaced encouragement to the Hong Kong rioters.”

China insists that all protesters demanding representative democracy and protection from communism in Hong Kong are “rioters” who deserve to be violently punished, a line dutifully repeated in its state media organs.

“It is in serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations, stirring up trouble against the Chinese people including the Hong Kong compatriots and once again exposing the U.S. hegemonic way of thinking to the entire world,” the People’s Daily said of the law. “The U.S. should know that any such bill is nothing but a vain attempt and doomed to fail. It must withdraw the black hand behind the Hong Kong affairs.”

Without offering proof or referencing a specific incident, the newspaper also repeated Chinese communists’ old claim that the United States “has kept a poor record on human rights” and that Washington “authorized the police to suppress the protesters ruthlessly” at unspecified American protests.

The Chinese Foreign Minister echoed the Global Times‘s threats of stern action against America if President Trump signs the bill but did not specifically mention any potential sanctions on Friday.

“By passing this act, the US will undermine not only China’s interests but also its own interests in Hong Kong. We urge the US to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it’s too late, and immediately take measures to prevent this act from becoming law” spokesman Geng Shuang said.

“China will have to take strong countermeasures if the US is bent on having its own way,” he added. “No one should underestimate China’s determination to defend its national sovereignty, security and development interests, to implement the ‘one country, two systems’ policy, and to safeguard Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.”

Geng had condemned the law on Tuesday, the day it passed the Senate, for allegedly “neglect[ing] facts and truth” and being “in serious violation of international law.”

China maintains concentration camps, engages in genocide activities, and rejected rulings from major international tribunals, indicating a total disregard for international law and legal institutions.

A reporter asked Geng to clarify the “countermeasures” China has threatened against America, but he refused to do so.

Geng personally has repeatedly condemned from the Foreign Ministry podium the use of unilateral sanctions.

In response to a question this month about the American trade embargo on Cuba, a Chinese ally, Geng said:

China respects all countries’ right to independently choose their social system and development path, upholds international order based on international law, safeguards international fairness and justice, and opposes unilateral sanctions through military, political, economic and other means.

“China firmly opposes the unilateral sanctions and so-called ‘long-arm jurisdictions’ imposed by the US,” Geng stated in April, referring to sanctions on Iran.

In remarks last year, Geng similarly opposed “unilateral sanctions” on North Korea.

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