China summoned the US ambassador yesterday to strongly protest the signing of a bill that supports Hong Kong protesters. Beijing’s furious reaction was expected as it warned that the move would undermine cooperation with Washington.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that was granted special autonomy when China took control in 1997, has been rocked by six months of sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told Ambassador Terry Branstad that the move constituted “serious interference in China’s internal affairs and a serious violation of international law,” a foreign ministry statement said.
Trump’s approval of the bill called The Human Rights and Democracy Act was not unexpected. Neither was the reaction from Beijing, given China’s adamant rejections of any commentary on what it considers an internal issue. But the clash comes at a sensitive time and could upset already thorny trade negotiations.
Le called it a “nakedly hegemonic act.” He urged the U.S. not to implement the bills to prevent greater damage to U.S.-China relations, the ministry said.
In a statement about the meeting, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said, “the Chinese Communist Party must honor its promises to the Hong Kong people.”
The U.S. “believes that Hong Kong’s autonomy, its adherence to the rule of law, and its commitment to protecting civil liberties are key to preserving its special status under U.S. law,” it said.
Since the Hong Kong protests began in June, Beijing has responded to expressions of support for the demonstrators from the U.S. and other countries by accusing them of orchestrating the unrest to contain China’s development. The central government has blamed foreign “black hands” bent on destroying the city.
The U.S. laws, which passed both chambers of Congress almost unanimously, mandate sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses in Hong Kong; require an annual review of Hong Kong’s favorable trade status and prohibit the export to Hong Kong police of certain nonlethal munitions.
While China has repeatedly threatened unspecified “countermeasures,” it’s unclear exactly how it will respond.
Speaking on Fox News, Trump called the protests a “complicating factor” in trade negotiations with Beijing. (Source: Mainichi Japan)