China, Hong Kong push back against Trump’s trade threats

-A +A

HONG KONG (May 31): Hong Kong’s government said actions threatened by President Donald Trump are “unjustified” and that China is within its “legitimate rights” to pursue new national security laws that Beijing says will help quell months of unrest.

Separately, the People’s Daily, mouthpiece of China’s Communist Party, wrote that the plans outlined by Trump at the White House on Friday were “gross interference” in Beijing’s affairs and were “doomed to fail.” In a second commentary published Sunday on its front page, the newspaper accused the US and Western politicians of “double standards” and “shameless hegemony” for their criticism of the legislation.

And China’s ambassador to the US wrote in a Bloomberg Opinion editorial that the central government has the ultimate responsibility for upholding national security in Hong Kong, and that the proposed legislation “will protect law-abiding citizens.”

The US moves would include stripping Hong Kong of some of its privileged trade status as a result of Beijing’s crackdown on the island, and come as tensions simmer between the world’s two biggest economies over the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and how the Trump administration characterizes China’s role in its spread.

Officials from Hong Kong wrote in a 949-word statement that they’re “not unduly worried” about the sanctions and trade restrictions proposed by Trump.

Hong Kong will continue to rely on rule of law, judicial independence, and a free and open trade policy, according to a statement issued Saturday evening local time.

Officials defended the actions of China’s legislature, which this week approved a plan to draft legislation that China has called essential to national security, and which Hong Kong democracy advocates have said will curb freedom of speech and undermine an independent judiciary.

Those actions, on top of relations fraught by the pandemic, led Secretary of State Michael Pompeo to decertify the former British colony’s autonomy under US law. Trump vowed “strong” and “meaningful” actions while providing few specifics.

The proposed legislation “does not give rise to fears of the loss of liberties by its people that will warrant international debate or interference by another country” and such fears are “simply fallacious,” the Hong Kong government said in its statement.

“We note with deep regret that President Trump and his administration continue to smear and demonize the legitimate rights and duty of our sovereign to safeguard national security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region which in turn is aimed at restoring stability to Hong Kong society,” the statement said.

Cui Tiankai, China’s US ambassador, wrote on Saturday that Hong Kong was “a romantic fusion of the East and the West.”

“To our regret, such romance is evaporating,” the envoy wrote. The violent actions of protesters against police, citizens and property there had crossed “a red line” for Beijing, he said. “Hong Kong is in disarray. China’s national security is at risk. That is why the central government has chosen to act.”

Hong Kong has been roiled by protests, some of them violent, since last year as demonstrators sought full democracy and police accountability, demands which remain unmet.

The coronavirus pandemic had, until recently, kept protesters at home; larger demonstrations have returned in the past week as people fought controversial legislation to criminalize disrespect toward China’s national anthem and Beijing’s efforts to impose the new security law on the territory, which has had relative autonomy since being returned to China by Britain in 1997.

China’s rubber-stamp legislature on Thursday approved a proposal for sweeping new national security laws for Hong Kong, but it could take Chinese officials months to sort out details of laws banning subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign interference.

The People’s Daily reported that China would be firm in responding to any US moves, without specifying what actions Beijing might take. In Sunday’s commentary it said the proposed legislation is a rightful move to defend China’s sovereignty and compatible with international practice.