White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien said on Sunday that China’s aggressive move to force national security laws on Hong Kong may result in US sanctions.
During an interview with NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” O’Brien said that China’s actions indicate that they are “going to basically take over Hong Kong,” which could spark economic retribution.
“If they do … [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo will 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,” he said.
China is moving forward with a set of controversial national security laws for Hong Kong aimed at cracking down on anti-Beijing sentiment and further eroding the region’s autonomy. The new proposal, targeting secession, subversion, and foreign interference in Hong Kong, is expected to be passed on May 28 at the annual and largely rubber-stamp National People’s Congress (NPC).
The unilateral move by China prompted thousands to take to the streets over the weekend, resulting in police firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray onto crowds that gathered at the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay.
Ben Bland, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute in Australia and the author of “Generation HK: Seeking Identity in China’s Shadow,” told Business Insider that China’s decision to thrust these new laws onto Hong Kong “represents a major blow to Hong Kong’s freedoms and autonomy.”
Last year, the US House and Senate both passed bills to defend human rights in Hong Kong after mass protests broke out in the city in response to a controversial proposal that would have allowed for the extradition of Hong Kong residents to the mainland for trial.
The bill, titled the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, was signed into law by President Donald Trump on November 27, 2019, and essentially requires the State Department to ensure that Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” agreement with China is upheld each year for the US government to continue to afford Hong Kong with a special trade status.
The bill also requires the US government to impose sanctions against those responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong.
On Friday, Secretary of State Mike Popeo said that China’s efforts to commandeer Hong Kong’s national security legislation was “a death knell for the high degree of autonomy” that Beijing had promised to afford Hong Kong in its “one country, two systems” agreement.
“The United States strongly urges Beijing to reconsider its disastrous proposal, abide by its international obligations, and respect Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, democratic institutions, and civil liberties, which are key to preserving its special status under US law,” Pompeo said in a statement.
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