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US Congress Passes Hong Kong Democracy Bill, China Furious

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Beijing: China reacted furiously to President Donald Trump’s signing two bills aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong, summoning the U.S. ambassador to protest and warning the move would undermine cooperation with Washington.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that was granted semi-autonomy when China took control in 1997, has been rocked by six months of sometimes violent pro-democracy demonstrations.

Trump signed a bill into law on Wednesday that requires the State Department to certify annually that Hong Kong has sufficient autonomy to retain special U.S. trading consideration, which helps Hong Kong’s economy. The second measure signed by Trump bars the sale of tear gas and rubber bullets to the Hong Kong police.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has seen widespread demonstrations since June, some of which have led to violent clashes between protesters and the police. The protests were initially sparked by a proposed law that would have allowed extradition to mainland China, but the unrest later morphed into broader anti-government demonstrations that include demands such as greater democracy and universal suffrage.

The two U.S. laws come amid widespread criticism of heavy-handed treatment of protesters by the Hong Kong police and government, which Beijing supports.

Losing special status

As a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong is governed under the “one country, two systems” principle. Under that structure, Hong Kong is given self-governing power, a largely separate legal and economic framework from China, and various freedoms including limited election rights.

Hong Kong, a former British Colony, was handed over to China in 1997 and was functioning under one country two systems. Hong Kong has special agreement with the United States signed before 1997. In 1992 a special agreement was signed between the US and Hong Kong.

Under the US–Hong Kong Policy Act passed in 1992, the US government acknowledges the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration and regards Hong Kong as a completely different region from the rest of China in various aspects including political, judicial and trading.

Under that law, Washington’s diplomatic approach also differentiates between the Hong Kong government and the mainland government, thereby treating our city as a separate customs area and recognizing the Hong Kong passport as a legitimate travel document.

The act also, among other things, allows Hong Kong citizens to apply for US visas independently, permits free exchange between the US and Hong Kong currencies, and grants our city the right to purchase sensitive technologies from the US under the US export controls, as long as Hong Kong needs to ensure they aren’t put to improper use.

 Hong Kong has outstanding loans (including non-formal “shadow loans”) of $725bn to the mainland China.

One of the big arguments for Hong Kong’s role is it is a centre for the initial public offerings (IPOs) of Chinese firms, attracting crucial global capital. Hong Kong was the home of 73% of mainland companies’ IPOs overseas between 2010 and 2018. In the same vein, Hong Kong accounted for 60% of overseas bond issuance of mainland companies and 26% of syndicated loans, according to data from Hong Kong Monetary Authority and investment Natixis.

The newly signed law also said that US should allow Hong Kong Residents to get visas even if they were arrested for being a part of nonviolent agitations. Another bill was signed that banned the export of mob control munitions to the Hong Kong Police.