US threatens to ‘take action’ against China over Hong Kong law
As China prepares Thursday to pass a law that will nullify democracy in Hong Kong, America’s top diplomat has warned Beijing that Washington will hold it responsible for “flagrant” acts on the territory.
Testifying before Congress on Wednesday, Antony blink, the secretary of state, told lawmakers that the Biden administration would continue to “speak out and take action against gross violations of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.”
The Chinese parliament is expected to pass a law on Thursday that will significantly dilute the proportion of democratically elected lawmakers in the territory. The move follows the passage of national security legislation last year that paved the way for a sweeping crackdown on the pro-democracy moment in Hong Kong.
Blinken said the Biden administration “will follow through on the sanctions.” . . against those responsible for repressive acts in Hong Kong ”. He added that it would also remind US companies that there are already “sanctions on the books that they should be aware of if they are operating in Hong Kong.”
The warning was issued a week before Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, met with Yang Jiechi, China’s top foreign policy official, and Wang Yi, the foreign minister, to talks in Alaska.
“US officials at all levels should bring their concerns about Hong Kong directly to their counterparts,” said Carolyn Bartholomew, chairperson of the China-US Economic and Security Review Commission, which was put in place by Congress.
Bartholomew urged Biden to push for the release of jailed pro-democracy activists and to find ways – through visas or asylum – to help Hong Kong citizens flee “political persecution.” She said her administration should take advantage of the tools created by Congress and consider expanding the use of sanctions.
Andy Kim, a Democratic congressman from New Jersey whose wife fled Hong Kong before the 1997 transfer to China, said he would not rule out the possibility of sanctions. But he said they were like “a nail without a hammer” given China’s economic strength, unless they were part of a larger strategy with US allies.
“We should try to get other countries recorded this week and really show that this is a time when we can’t have shy voices,” he said.
Kurt Tong, a former US consul general in Hong Kong, said the sanctions were “inevitable,” but agreed they would have little impact because Chinese officials had no assets in the United States. United and were promoted after being targeted.
“You can even argue that the sanctions only solidify China’s stance on Hong Kong because it reinforces Beijing’s false narrative that everything happening in Hong Kong that China dislikes has been orchestrated by foreign powers, ”said Tong, now at The Asia Group, A Council.
Ryan Hass, author of Strong, a book on US policy toward China, said the United States must recognize that there is “no silver bullet.”
“The United States is going to have to play a long game and work with its allies and partners to send a consistent message over the years,” he said. “China’s bet is that the United States and others will lose interest and accept as a fait accompli that Beijing has taken these aggressive steps on Hong Kong.”
But he also said the United States may in the short term consider following the lead of the United Kingdom and Canada in creating pathways for Hong Kong citizens who wish to flee Beijing’s crackdown.
Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced bills that would raise the priority of Hong Kong citizens in the refugee claim process.
Biden has taken a harsh rhetorical stance on China, including in his first call with President Xi Jinping. But Adam Nelson, an expert on Asia at the National Democratic Institute, said China was not afraid of “cutting its fingers” but feared “losing its business, its prestige and its respect.”
“This is where the Biden administration can really make a difference, strengthening allies in the region who are already hard on China and pushing more soft-spoken allies to step up the pressure on Beijing with a unified and sustained pressure, ”said Nelson. “This includes speaking out, sanctions, and shrine support for Hong Kong people.”
Sophie Richardson, director of China at Human Rights Watch, praised the administration for speaking harshly about China, which puts “a stake in the heart” of democracy in Hong Kong. But she said it had to match rhetoric with tough action.
“You’ve heard the Biden administration say they stand with the people of Hong Kong,” Richardson said. “It’s an important statement to make, but it needs to be turned into visible policy.”
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