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The new security law imposed by China makes it easier to punish protestors in Hong Kong and reduces the city’s autonomy. The US retaliated by passing the Hong Kong Autonomy Act which imposes sanctions on Chinese entities who help to violate Hong Kong’s autonomy and institutions that do business with them.
Professor David Law, Sir Y.K. Pao Chair in Public Law at the University of Hong Kong, told Express.co.uk: “With each action that the US takes, such as passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act or the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, China responds indignantly and threatens retaliation.
“But the US doesn’t take kindly to Chinese retaliation either. Two can play at that game. The result is that we are seeing not just conflict, but the potential escalation of conflict.”
In a press conference, US President Donald Trump said he signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act and spoke about China’s security law.
He added: “We’ve all watched what happened. Not a good situation. Their freedom has been taken away.
“Their rights have been taken away. And with it, goes Hong Kong, in my opinion, because it will no longer be able to compete with free markets.”
Professor Law said: “The new Hong Kong Autonomy Act doesn’t just authorize sanctions against those responsible for violating human rights in Hong Kong; it actually obligates the President to impose sanctions, which can include freezing financial assets in the US or under the control of a US institution, such as a bank.”
He added how China’s national security law in Hong Kong “demands exactly the opposite”.
It outlaws imposing sanctions and other hostile activities against the People’s Republic of China and explicitly applies to institutions and people outside Hong Kong or China, Professor Law explained.
This means if a member of Congress were to vote in favour of a law, like the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, they would be violating China’s national security law.
Professor Law highlighted how banks who have businesses in the US and Hong Kong or China, will be unlikely to comply with both laws at the same time.
Tensions have also heightened in recent weeks over trade, the coronavirus pandemic and other issues to dramatic levels not experienced between the two countries in decades.
China ordered US diplomatic staff to leave their consulate in the Chinese city of Chengdu earlier this week.
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The action was taken by China after the US closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, over claims it was a hub for spying.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained the Houston closure was ordered by Washington because Beijing was “stealing” intellectual property.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said the US’s actions were based on “a hodgepodge of anti-Chinese lies”.
Professor Law explained how the President of the People’s Republic of China, Xi Jinping, is playing to a “nationalistic domestic audience” but American politicians are motivated by similar incentives.
He said the US’s loathing of the Communist Party of China regime is genuine.
Professor Law added: “It’s been a while since US politicians have shown so much unity and sense of purpose.”
He said the Republican and Democratic politicians in the US are uniting over the issue of Chinese human rights abuses in a way that is rarely seen in American politics except in times of war.
Earlier this month the Chinese government announced sanctions against US officials, including the Republican senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, after the US imposed sanctions amid Beijing’s treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in Xinjiang.
Professor Law said: “China’s announcement of sanctions against two prominent members of Congress, Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz, is probably only going to bolster the popularity of those two senators and to outrage Americans even further.
“There is a very palpable sense of moral outrage in the US right now against China, it crosses party lines, it is translating into more and more legislation, and that legislation is no longer just symbolic either.
“China’s actions right now may play well to Chinese domestic audiences, but in the US, they appear to be backfiring, on an increasing scale.”
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