Fresh Showdown: US, China In War Of Words Over Hong Kong

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The United States and China are heading for a fresh showdown as the United States on Thursday warned China to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy, warning that it’s proposed national security law for the city would be “highly destabilizing” and face global opposition.

“Any effort to impose national security legislation that does not reflect the will of the people of Hong Kong would be highly destabilizing and would be met with strong condemnation from the
The United States and the international community,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

She said that China’s statements and the proposed legislation “undermine” China’s promises it made before regaining control of the financial hub from Britain in 1997.

“We urge Beijing to honor its commitments and obligations in the Sino-British Joint Declaration — including that Hong Kong will ‘enjoy a high degree of autonomy’ and that people of Hong Kong will enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Ortagus said.

President Donald Trump earlier Thursday also promised a response when told of the move on Hong Kong. “I don’t know what it is, because nobody knows yet. If it happens, we’ll address that issue very strongly,” Trump said.

Recall that China had disclosed that it will introduce legislation Friday on the first day of its rubber-stamp parliament session that would strengthen enforcement of laws in Hong Kong that prohibit “subversion.”

Pro-democracy leaders and activists warned that the move would mark the end of Hong Kong as they know it, a fear voiced in months of massive and sometimes violent protests last year.

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The US Congress late last year angered China by passing a law that would strip Hong Kong’s preferential trading status in the United States if the urban hub no longer enjoys autonomy from the mainland.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this month delayed a report on certifying Hong Kong’s autonomy under the law, saying the State Department would wait for the meeting of the legislature, the National People’s Congress.

The State Department warned Thursday that China’s actions would impact its decision. In a fresh bid by US Congress to exert pressure after China’s announcement, senators on Thursday introduced legislation to impose sanctions on any entity involved in curbing Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The targets could include police who crackdown on demonstrators and Chinese officials involved in Hong Kong policy — as well as banks that conduct transactions with anyone who infringes on the territory’s freedoms.

“In many ways, Hong Kong is the canary in the coal mine for Asia,” said Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican who spearheaded the legislation alongside a Democrat, Chris Van Hollen.

“Beijing’s growing interference could have a chilling effect on other nations struggling for freedom in China’s shadow,” Toomey said, likely alluding to the self-governed island of Taiwan and countries that have territorial rifts with Beijing.

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Babajide Okeowo
With a career spanning over a decade spent across the Business, Political and Entertainment beats of prominent media organizations in Nigeria, Babajide Okeowo has carved a niche for himself as a Journalist of repute. As a newsroom guru, he has penned several weighty narratives and designed content that speak to a news medium's values, vision and mission while ensuring that the content resonate pretty well with a variety of critical audiences across Nigeria and beyond. A consummate storyteller whose coverage of the business industry is valuable, Okeowo is blessed with a vast analytical mind and data interpretation skills. In his spare time, he interprets data for a Leading American University while also volunteering for a Non-Governmental Organization on Mindset Transformation. Okeowo is the Content Editor of The New Diplomat.

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