China threatens retaliation against US HK bill

Clay Curtis
October 16, 2019

"Today we're simply urging the Chinese president and the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, to faithfully honour the government's promises that Hong Kong's rights and autonomy would be protected", Republican Representative Chris Smith, prime sponsor of the bill, said on the House floor.

As the city's chief executive was about to begin her speech, opposition lawmakers projected the slogan "Five demands - not one less" on the wall behind her. She left the Legislative Council chamber and came back a few minutes later to try again, only to be interrupted one more time, prompting her to leave again.

"We are determined to create home ownership opportunities for people of different income groups such that they will happily make Hong Kong their home", Lam said.

The protests have destroyed public confidence in Lam's Beijing-backed government as well as the Hong Kong police force.

Beijing also warned that if the bill became law, it would harm not only China's interests and bilateral relations but the United States itself, since the latter "has important interests in Hong Kong".

The annual policy speech was unusually short and focused on the deep social and economic inequalities that have proliferated in Hong Kong.

China's foreign ministry said Wednesday in a statement posted to its website that the issues facing Hong Kong right now are not "so-called human rights and democracy", but rather violence.

In a subsequent news conference, Lam again made clear that she wouldn't resign and insisted there has been no erosion "whatsoever" of Hong Kong's freedoms.

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"Today the House is proud to pass the bicameral, bipartisan Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act to reaffirm America's commitment to democracy", said the California Democrat. "Please, please, please Mrs. Carrie Lam, don't let us suffer any more".

The address is an annual speech at the opening of the city's legislature where the pro-Beijing leader lays out policies and bills for the year ahead. Protesters also fought officers with poles, petrol bombs and other projectiles. A third bill would ensure that USA weapons are not being used against protesters by police.

Authorities have arrested more than 2,300 people since June when the unrest escalated, scores of them teenagers, some as young as 12 and the oldest 83.

On Sunday night, protesters and police clashed in running skirmishes in shopping malls and on the streets.

One of the measures, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, would require the USA secretary of state to certify every year that Hong Kong retained its autonomy in order to keep receiving the special treatment that has allowed it to be a major financial center.

"This kind of behavior has grossly interfered in China's internal affairs and is openly adding support to the opposition forces and radical forces in Hong Kong", an official at the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office reportedly stated. "On the other hand, we should consider every means to end the violence".

Goldman Sachs estimated this month that Hong Kong may have lost as much as US$4 billion (S$5.5 billion) in deposits to rival Asian financial hub Singapore between June and August.

"The most straightforward solution to Hong Kong's housing problem is to increase land supply, and build more public and private residential units", the state-run Xinhua News wrote in a September editorial.

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