hk human rights and democracy act beyond trade talks

City talk | Edward Chow 8 Nov 2019

I am in London this week, and seeing the golden leaves on the trees and in volumes on the ground make the royal parks particularly attractive for walks.

Autumn is my favorite season, as the chill and golden leaves lead me to believe that the year is on its way out to become part of history, and one should ponder what the next year will bring.

But, Hong Kong aside, we don't have much to look forward to in the bigger picture either.

UK, the world's fifth-largest economy, is preparing for a December 12 snap election. with political jaws focusing on the views of the Scottish, Welsh and, of course, the Northern Irish, leaving the English view in a four-way split between the traditional Labour and Conservative parties, the Liberal Democrats and the in-vogue Brexit Party.

There is little doubt the next UK parliament will be a hung one. As to how "hung" it will be, only time will tell.

The second piece of headline news in the UK is the US Congress's impeachment proceedings against President Trump.

Looks like the habitual firing of close aides is coming back to haunt Trump as they queue up to testify before Congress.

The US-China trade war does not seem to feature much in the UK, as it should, particularly as this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting, at which President Xi Jinping and Trump were going to meet and sign the first stage of a watered-down US-China trade agreement, has been canceled by host country Chile due to unrest.

There is an increasing realization in Hong Kong that the unrest running into the fifth month is funded and directed by foreign elements and supported by US government officials and politicians.

The most obvious is the passing by the US Congress, on October 15, of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

The bill is now passed on to the Senate and then the president for approval. By sheer coincidence, the bill was introduced to Congress on June 13, the commencement of the unrest in Hong Kong.

The act, if passed, will enable the US to take diplomatic action and economic sanctions against Hong Kong, if it takes the view that human rights and democracy are being "violated" in Hong Kong.

What needs to be understood is that Hong Kong has always been treated as a separate trading entity.

This is because as a former crown colony, Hong Kong was never part of the UK and the European Union.

It was an independent member of World Trade Organization, APEC and the International Monetary Fund.

After the handover and under the Basic Law, this status was carried over, under "one country, two systems."

Hence, for Hong Kong to be drawn into the trade game as a political pawn is unwise, unnecessary and dangerous.

And in trying to get the piece of legislation passed, together with Trump citing the unrest here when he comments on the Sino-US trade talks, is even more unwise, as this is an infringement on China's sovereignty and internal affairs unrelated to trade.

"America first" advocates should realize that if China cites "China first" as a tit-for-tat negotiating bedrock, then a trade deal would not be possible.

And should China raise its stance to protect its sovereignty and internal affairs, a confrontation might even be inevitable.

Edward Chow is a current affairs commentator

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