U.S. commission: Strip Hong Kong of special status if China interferes with protests

Nov. 15 (UPI) — A bipartisan U.S. congressional commission advised the government to strip Hong Kong of its special trading status if China deploys its army or police to interfere with ongoing pro-democracy protests that have crippled the semiautonomous region.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission made the recommendation Thursday as part of its mandated annual report to Congress on the national security implications of bilateral trade and the economic relationship between the two countries.

In the report, the congressional body made five recommendations concerning Hong Kong, including enacting legislation to revoke the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 if China deploys its armed forces to the region.

It also recommended amending the act to direct the State Department to develop benchmarks measuring Hong Kong’s maintenance of a “high degree of autonomy” from Beijing and passing legislation to extend export control measures in place for mainland China subsidiaries of Chinese companies operating in Hong Kong, among others.

“The future direction of Hong Kong — and with it U.S.-Hong Kong policy — will rest upon the outcome of the anti-extradition bill protest movement and the extent to which the Hong Kong government and Beijing respect the aspirations of Hong Kong citizens,” an executive summary of the report said.

Hong Kong has been rocked since June by protests over a now shelved extradition bill that would have allowed for refugees from Chinese law to be sent to the mainland to face Communist Party control courts. However, the movement has since evolved into a greater pro-democracy push that has been met with strong state resistance that has worried U.S. lawmakers to present legislation to revoked its special status.

The Hong Kong government responded to the report, saying in a statement that “foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the city’s internal affairs.”

It said the Hong Kong government has worked closely with the United States and achieved “satisfactory results” but regrets that it would use the protests to “cast down on Hong Kong’s strategic trade control system.”

The nearly 600-page report projects a downturn in U.S.-China relations, saying 2019 was one of its “most tumultuous” years, which was set to end with a clash over China’s trade-distorting practices and broader political, technological and security differences.

At key, however, is China’s move to revise the international system in ways “more befitting its national interests and repressive vision of governance” and to reflect this the commission decided it would no longer refer to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, as president.

“If there were flickers of opening up in China, they have been firmly extinguished,” Carolyn Bartholomew said during its committee hearing Thursday. “It is for this reason that we are making what we view as an important change in our report this year: Namely, we are now referring to Xi Jinping using the title by which he derives his true authority — general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. “

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