Published: 00:11, May 21, 2024
Proposed American sanctions could trigger a backlash from HK
By Tony Kwok

The annual report from the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China has called for sanctions targeting Hong Kong prosecutors, judges and other individuals they claim are complicit in undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy and rights protections.

This report is biased and slanderous and demonstrates continued American attempts to smear Hong Kong’s national security laws by distorting the truth. As a spokesperson for the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government pointed out, the proposed sanctions are a despicable act of political manipulation aimed at intimidating Hong Kong officials tasked with safeguarding national security.

The Safeguarding National Security Ordinance enjoys widespread support among the people of Hong Kong. Results from public consultations showed that approximately 99 percent of the 13,147 submissions expressed support for the legislation during the public consultation. The people of Hong Kong have come to understand that the anti-government riots, arson, deaths, violence against innocent residents, and destruction of public infrastructure and pro-China private businesses in the 2019-20 “black-clad” insurrection were a result of the absence of a national security law, which the United States government took full advantage of in collusion with local secessionists. These events posed the most dangerous challenge to the “one country, two systems” governance policy.

It should be noted that individuals like tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, who are referred to as “political prisoners” by Western politicians and media, have been charged with collusion with foreign governments and sedition. They are allegedly involved in criminal activities aimed at overthrowing the HKSAR government. US politicians have conveniently forgotten the Jan 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol, for which 1,200 rioters have been charged with sedition offenses, and 460 have already been imprisoned. This proves that the US administration and Congress condemn sedition on their home ground but condone it in Hong Kong. This condemnable double standard and hypocrisy should shame the Washington ruling elites.

The US and UK criticize Hong Kong’s national security laws even though their own national security acts are much more draconian. Their acts carry heavier penalties for similar offenses, including the possible death penalty for US offenders. For instance, in the US, the Patriot Act (2001) weakened privacy rights by granting the government access to people’s telephone records without court authorization.

The US enjoys a significant trade surplus of over $23 billion with Hong Kong. Perhaps it is time for Hong Kong to consider reducing its imports from the US. This can be achieved through calling for a boycott of American goods, similar to the one in Indonesia that called for a boycott of all Israeli products in protest against its invasion of Gaza. We must hit them where it hurts the most

The US is so unhappy with Hong Kong passing its national security laws because the laws can now play an essential role in preventing the subversion, infiltration, incitement, and espionage activities of the US-led West in Hong Kong. These activities have been ongoing since China resumed the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, in collusion with local secessionists like Lai. The details of these clandestine operations were revealed during Lai’s ongoing trial, which is why the US is exerting great pressure to try to stop the trial and protect its pawn, as well as prevent further details from being revealed to the public.

The US has also issued travel alerts for Hong Kong without any justification, which is ridiculous. Just look at the recent Hong Kong Sevens event at Hong Kong Stadium, where over 40 percent of the audience were overseas visitors. The number of visitors surpassed those of previous years, demonstrating their strong return. These visitors enjoyed the unique atmosphere of Hong Kong, displaying their costumes and cheering heartily for their national teams, including the US national team. After the games, these overseas visitors continued to enjoy themselves in nightspots like Lan Kwai Fong. No one appeared to be worried about their safety, even as they caroused late into the night — something they would hesitate to do in cities like New York or Chicago. They would testify that Hong Kong’s streets are safer than most other major Western metropolitan cities worldwide. To them, the travel alert is simply a big joke. As Allan Zeman, the Lan Kwai Fong Group chairperson, pointed out, talking about Hong Kong “losing its freedoms” is nothing more than political propaganda.

There is no justification for sanctioning Hong Kong prosecutors and judges. They play an instrumental role in ensuring the proper functioning of the rule of law system, which is admired worldwide and has contributed to Hong Kong’s high ranking in the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index. In the 2023 survey, Hong Kong ranked 23rd out of 142 jurisdictions, higher than the United States (26th). Hong Kong also ranked fourth out of 191 in the UN Human Development Index. Therefore, suggesting that Hong Kong has lost its freedom is not based on reality.

Furthermore, Hong Kong has 1,300 US companies and approximately 90,000 American nationals. They should know better about Hong Kong than politicians in Washington. According to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce on its members, 76 percent of respondents view Hong Kong as a competitive global business hub due to its international connectivity, free flow of capital, favorable tax regime, and, most importantly, its robust legal and regulatory system. Hong Kong has more of the world’s top 500 family enterprises than any other financial hub in the Asia-Pacific region. It also surpasses New York as the top city for the ultrarich, with 12,615 ultra-high-net-worth individuals compared to New York’s 11,845. These family businesses and wealthy individuals, who are unquestionably knowledgeable about Hong Kong’s long-term viability, do not appear worried about the impact of national security laws.

Chinese culture does not favor “an eye for an eye”. We prefer coexistence, peace and tolerance, but up to a certain level. However, if the US interprets this as a sign of weakness and believes that China can be bullied, they will regret it. As mentioned in a commentary by the Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese government and the entire Chinese population will respond with a strong pushback when called for. This is particularly so as the public prosecutors and judges are highly respected by Hong Kong residents for their integrity, dedication and loyalty. Any proposed sanctions on them are regarded as an insult to all Hong Kong residents.

It is crucial to hold these unscrupulous US politicians to account. China and the HKSAR government should consider imposing reciprocal sanctions on them and their close relatives; for example, preventing them from benefiting from the vast Chinese market in any way.

Similarly, the HKSAR government can issue travel alerts to warn Hong Kong residents against unnecessary travel to the US. This is justifiable considering the prevalent gun violence, rampant shop robberies, and homeless people attacking pedestrians.

The US enjoys a significant trade surplus of over $23 billion with Hong Kong. Perhaps it is time for Hong Kong to consider reducing its imports from the US. This can be achieved through calling for a boycott of American goods, similar to the one in Indonesia that called for a boycott of all Israeli products in protest against its invasion of Gaza. We must hit them where it hurts the most.

The author is an honorary fellow of HKU Space and HK Metropolitan University, a council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, and a retired deputy commissioner of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.