The speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said that she was “deeply concerned” about Beijing’s violations of human rights in Hong Kong, indicating that the city’s status as a premier business hub in Asia is at risk.
Eroding Hong Kong freedoms
Pelosi was speaking to a delegation from Hong Kong when she raised her concerns. One of the core issues she pointed out was a proposed law that would allow people from Hong Kong to be sent to China for trial. The speaker noted that such a law is a threat to the security of American businesses and workers and inspired very little confidence in Hong Kong’s ability to continue being a top destination for international businesses.
Earlier, a report by the U.S. State Department had warned that Beijing’s attempt to replace Hong Kong’s laws with Chinese ones will essentially erode the autonomy of the city. The Chinese government sharply criticized the report. “Hong Kong’s affairs belong purely to the internal politics of China… Foreign governments have no right to interfere. China is fiercely dissatisfied with, and resolutely opposed to, the [report’s] disregard for facts and thoughtless remarks about Hong Kong’s affairs,” Geng Shuang, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, said in a statement (South China Morning Post).
However, news of the proposed extradition laws has everyone in Hong Kong worried. Many feel that Beijing might use the law to target political dissidents in Hong Kong, thereby stifling whatever democratic freedom exists in the city. The international business community is worried that their operations might come under the scrutiny of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Companies might also find it difficult to hire talented workers. After all, who would want to migrate to a city where the government tracks your every move?
“At that point Hong Kong is just really a part of China… People might still be fine to come for three years, five years, but are you going to really put down roots here if you have real or implied political risk? I think probably not,” a partner of an asset management company said in a statement (Inquirer.net).
Hong Kong policy act
The United States-Hong Kong Policy Act was passed in 1992 and allowed the U.S. government to treat Hong Kong separately from China. As such, Hong Kong enjoyed investment opportunity and visa relaxations that mainland Chinese cities did not. However, the policy will only remain in force while Beijing upholds its “One Country, Two Systems” policy under which the city has autonomy over its own affairs. If the CCP were to gain total control over Hong Kong, the U.S. president can end the policy at his discretion.
“The fact is that the withdrawal of Hong Kong’s special status under the Policy Act, even if only partially at first, would be a body-blow to Hong Kong’s economy, international standing, and perceptions that One Country Two Systems remains a reality,” Anson Chan, Hong Kong’s former chief secretary, said in a statement (Hong Kong Free Press).
The proposed extradition law will be up for discussion in Hong Kong’s legislature in the coming weeks. The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong has issued a letter stating that its members are worried about the proposed law. The letter stressed that Hong Kong’s rule of law is its most priceless treasure and must not be damaged at any cost.