China national security legislation for Hong Kong could lead to sanctions and threaten the city’s status as a financial hub,White House Adviser says.
Critics say the new law would infringe on Hong Kong’s autonomy and the civil liberties of its residents.
Beijing, meanwhile, warned of a “new Cold War” with the United States, saying the country had been infected by a “political virus” compelling figures there to continually attack China.
“It looks like, with this national security law, they’re going to basically take over Hong Kong,” White House National Security Adviser said.
The comments came on Sunday as the war of words between the two superpowers intensifies amid disputes over the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and trade deals.
“And if they do … Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy and if that happens there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China,” he said.
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U.S. government officials have said the legislation would end the Chinese-ruled city’s autonomy and would be bad for both Hong Kong’s and China’s economies. They said it could jeopardize the territory’s special status in US law, which has helped it maintain its position as a global financial center.
“It’s hard to see how Hong Kong could remain the Asian financial center that it’s become if China takes over,” O’Brien said. Global corporations would have no reason to remain, he said.
“One reason that they came to Hong Kong is because there was the rule of law, there was a free enterprise system, there was a capitalist system, there was democracy and local legislative elections,” O’Brien said. “If all those things go away, I’m not sure how the financial community can stay there.”
The proposed bill, submitted on Friday on the opening day of China’s largely rubber-stamp national legislative session, would forbid secessionist and “subversive activity”, as well as foreign interference and “terrorism” in Hong Kong, which rejoined mainland China from British rule in 1997 under a so-called “one country, two systems” agreement.
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Under that agreement, which is set to expire in 2047, Hong Kong maintained some autonomy, including a separate legislature and judicial system, as well as some civil liberties for its residents.
The vice chairman of the National People’s Congress has said Hong Kong pro-democracy protests, which began in June of last year and at times descended into violence, have undermined the agreement that gives Hong Kong its special status and the new legislation would help prevent any behaviour that posed potential security threats.
Speaking at a news conference on Sunday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a response to growing international condemnation of the move, said Hong Kong affairs were an internal matter for China, and “no external interference will be tolerated”.
In November last year, amid weekly protests in Hong Kong, US President Donald Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which requires the State Department to certify that the city retains enough autonomy to justify favourable US trading terms, which have helped it maintain its position as a world financial centre.
On Sunday, Wang accused “some political forces in the US” of “taking China-US relations hostage and pushing our two countries to the brink of a new Cold War”.
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The escalation of tensions intertwines with US officials’ condemnation of China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which first appeared in the city of Wuhan in December of last year, Wang said.
US officials should focus on the outbreak in the US, which has become the hardest-hit country in the world, he added.