Source: Global Times Published: 2019-10-16
The US House of Representative is expected to pass the so-called "Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act" on Tuesday (US time), almost the same time with Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's policy address scheduled for Wednesday morning, which intended to solve underlying problem for the Hong Kong society.
Experts said the US wants to make full use of the Hong Kong turmoil to continue pressuring China and to incite anti-government protesters in the city, whose momentum is waning due to endless violence and illegal activities.
According to the Voice of America and the website of the US Congress, the act covers many issues that will interfere in Hong Kong affairs, including sanctioning individuals for "human rights" allegations, and ease the visa policy for protesters arrested and charged for their illegal activities in the months-long turmoil.
Tian Feilong, an associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing and a Hong Kong studies expert said that whether the act is passed or not, it has no international legal basis at all because it is a long-arm jurisdiction move based on US hegemony.
"What the US politicians want is to keep the fire burning,"he said.
The timing is also tricky, said Chinese experts, because Lam is scheduled to deliver her third policy address on Wednesday at the Legislative Council, and she will shift attention of local society to economic and livelihood topics from the political turmoil.
The reason is simple, Tian said. "When the chief executive tries to solve economic problems, and especially when those violent radical protesters and rioters are losing support, the US moves to provide more support to anti-government forces by passing the act; otherwise, the turmoil would die out due the lack of impetus."
Sources told the South China Morning Post that housing and social welfare initiatives were likely to be the key points of Lam's address, including a fresh push for a starter-home scheme she launched two years ago and a limited resumption of the Tenants Purchase Scheme to help public housing tenants own their homes.
Experts said housing and social welfare issues are closely related to Hong Kong people's livelihood and affected the stability of society, so many Hong Kong residents have high expectations of the policy address despite the current turmoil.
Rioters started to use knives and a home-made explosive device in their attacks on police officers during last weekend's illegal assembly, which further angered ordinary Hong Kong people.
Passing such an act in October could also allow the US to meddle with the 2019 Hong Kong District Council elections on November 24, Tian noted.
How bad is it?
Although the final version of the act is yet to be released, its summary shows that it intends to authorize the US government to interfere in China's internal affairs in Hong Kong in politics, justice and the economy, and "this will definitely hurt China-US relations," said Diao Daming, a US studies expert and an associate professor at the Renmin University of China in Beijing.
"Before the next round of trade talks, the US needs to make sure that the Hong Kong turmoil is still a card in its hand," Diao noted.
Economically, the influence of the act on Hong Kong is limited, but more of a political gesture to support the radical protesters, Chinese experts said.
The US State Department shall allow otherwise unqualified Hong Kong residents to obtain visas to work or study in the US, "even if the applicant had been arrested for participating in certain nonviolent protests supporting human rights or the rule of law," read the act's summary.
This will effectively encourage the radical protesters - and even those who have been arrested - to be more aggressive and active, because the US is offering them an option to retreat, Tian said. "This could make law enforcement more difficult for the Hong Kong Police Force."
Hong Kong's response
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government on Monday expressed regret over an assembly on the US bill on Hong Kong, and reiterated that foreign legislatures should not interfere in the internal affairs of the HKSAR, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
A HKSAR government spokesman expressed regret over an assembly held in Hong Kong's Central area, which urged the US Congress to pass the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.
The spokesman pointed out that since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, the HKSAR has been exercising "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy in strict compliance with the HKSAR Basic Law, and the "one country, two systems" principle has been fully and successfully implemented.
Diao Daming is a research fellow of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.