China’s state propaganda outlet Global Times warned on Friday now should be the time “Hong Kong society sobers up” to defend itself from an alleged American economic attack, following the passage of a U.S. law to protect protesters.
Hong Kong has experienced millions-strong protests since June, when the local government attempted to pass a law that would allow China to extradite anyone present in the autonomous city. Thanks to the protests, the extradition bill failed, but protesters have continued to demand four measures intended to protect the individual freedoms they inherited from British rule – namely, the direct election of all lawmakers, freedom for political prisoners, an independent investigation into police brutality, and an end to the government referring to peaceful protests as riots.
In defense of the pro-democracy protest movement, President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law on Wednesday, which requires the State Department to review Hong Kong’s special trade status in the event its government is violating human rights there. The law also protects protesters by preventing a “criminal” record predicated on their participation in dissident activities from keeping a U.S. visa out of their hands.
President Trump also signed a law Wednesday that bans American sales of tear gas and other anti-riot gear to Hong Kong police forces.
The protesters celebrated the law with a “Thanksgiving” mass rally on Friday, waving American flags and thanking Washington for passing the law unanimously in both chambers of Congress.
The Global Times warned in its Friday column that Hong Kong’s people do not have the right to interpret their own laws. Instead, “it is the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress that holds the power of interpreting the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR).” The Basic Law is Hong Kong’s constitution, crafted to protect it from communist rule.
“Facing the U.S.’ potential move to cancel Hong Kong’s special trade status with this law, Hong Kong society needs to behave in accordance with the Basic Law on major issues and cooperate with the central government to offer no pretext for the U.S. to use this law,” the Times alleged. “If the radical opposition interprets the Basic Law in an unconstitutional manner, mainstream society in Hong Kong must stand up against them and stop them.”
Moreover, the article claims, the United States should not have the right to recalibrate giving Hong Kong preferential trade status because it is not under communist rule.
“Hong Kong’s special trade status is stipulated by the Basic Law, rather than awarded by the U.S. As long as the society sobers up and works hard with the motherland’s support, no external forces can truly wield influence over its destiny,” the newspaper argued.
The Global Times then demands that Beijing crush any existing relationship between the Hong Kong protest movement and the United States. There is no signfiicant evidence that American officials are involved in the protests in any way, but the protest movement has gained the sympathies of a wide variety of Americans, resulting in solidarity rallies around the country.
“We must leave no room for collusion and interaction between Hong Kong’s radical opposition and the U.S. government. They may act alone and bear the costs, but shall never dream of jointly coercing Beijing,” the newspaper asserted. “If Hong Kong society has force strong enough to resist constitutional arrangements, thus helping the U.S. resort to its law and causing further damage to the city’s business environment, it will be Hong Kong society’s misfortune.”
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, accused America of seeking to “push Hong Kong closer to the abyss of chaos” by passing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
“It is an abrasive intrusion in China’s internal affairs and a provocation against all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots, to interfere in Hong Kong affairs by adopting a domestic law,” the outlet claimed. “However, China will not be intimidated, and the United States is sure to suffer backlash from all Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots.”
“The current situation is by no means related to human rights or democracy, but an attempt by some to overturn a lawful government and dispose of that principle. It is wishful thinking by some U.S. politicians to turn Hong Kong into a proxy in taking on China,” the People’s Daily asserted. “No force can stop the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. The blackmail of the United States will only serve to strengthen the patriotism of the Chinese people, and unite them.”
The people of Hong Kong resoundingly reject Chinese identity. According to a pollreleased in June by the University of Hong Kong, only 1 percent of people in Hong Kong identified as “Chinese;” 90 percent of people aged 18-29 said were not proud of being Chinese citizens.
China Daily, another government propaganda outlet, referred to Washington as a “shakedown artist” in a column published Friday for passing the Hong Kong law.
“The passage and signing of Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and Placing Restrictions on Teargas Exports and Crowd-control Technology to Hong Kong Act have gone beyond mere interference in domestic affairs,” China Daily bellowed. “Maybe U.S. politicians don’t realize it, or maybe they just don’t care anymore, but this bill has removed all façade that the United States have put up.”
“These two laws are legitimizing the U.S. government’s attempt to disrupt the unity of China by deliberately instigating chaos in Hong Kong,” it continued. “Now, their support for violent protesters and riots don’t have to be covert. It can be done in broad daylight, with the might of an entire government behind it. It is a calculated attempt to use Hong Kong as a hostage to pin down China’s development.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry has also condemned the act, warning on Friday that China will “take strong counter-measures” to protest the act against the United States. Chinese officials have repeatedly refused to specify what kind of “counter-measures” they expect to put into place, though state media has rallied for bans on allowing the lawmakers responsible for the law from entering China. One issue with that sort of sanction is that the act passed unanimously, meaning every single member of Congress participated in turning it into law.
“It is a stark hegemonic practice, and it is a severe interference in Hong Kong affairs, which are China’s internal affairs. It also seriously violates international law and the basic norms governing international relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang toldreporters on Friday. “China will take strong counter-measures in response to the US behavior that interferes in China’s internal affairs and undermines China’s interests. No one shall underestimate China’s determination in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests.”