China has on Thursday promised to take “strong countermeasures” against the US, if said country presses ahead with tough new sanctions that target banks over infringements on Hong Kong’s autonomy, after Beijing imposed a sweeping security law on the restless financial hub– AFP.
Beijing has come under intense criticism from primarily Western nations over its decision to impose a law outlawing acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces in Hong Kong.
That includes from Britain, which has weeks ago revealed plans to extend citizenship rights to Hong Kongers, and the United States, where Congress on Thursday dialled up the pressure by fast-tracking the new sanctions.
According to AFP, “US President Donald Trump still needs to sign off on the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, and has not yet said if he will do so”.
The security law is controversial because it radically increases China’s control over Hong Kong.
However, Beijing says it is needed to quell seething pro-democracy protests and restore order after a year of political unrest.
What Does The Law Entail?
AFP sources say Hong Kong’s local government has confirmed that a popular protest slogan used over the last year — “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our Times” — is now illegal.
The act further punishes banks — including blocking loans from US institutions — if they conduct “significant transactions” with individuals identified as infringing on the city’s autonomy.
It targets Chinese officials and the Hong Kong police, making US sanctions against them mandatory if they are identified in two consecutive government reports as working to impede Hong Kong’s freedoms.
China says it will have jurisdiction over some cases and has empowered its security agents to operate openly inside Hong Kong for the first time, unconstrained by local laws.
It has also claimed global jurisdiction, saying the law covers national security offences committed overseas — even by foreigners.
Some trials will be held behind closed doors and without juries, while local police have been granted sweeping surveillance powers that no longer need judicial sign off.
Former colonial power Britain has said the law breaches Beijing’s “One Country, Two Systems” promise to grant Hong Kongers key liberties — as well as judicial and legislative autonomy — until 2047, a promise made as the city was handed back to Beijing in 1997.
As a result, London has announced plans to allow millions of Hong Kongers with British National Overseas status to relocate with their families and eventually apply for citizenship.
“We will live up to our promises to them,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told parliament.
That has infuriated Beijing, which says Britain promised not to grant full citizenship rights to Hong Kongers ahead of the handover.
“We firmly oppose this and reserve the right to take corresponding measures,” China’s embassy in London said Thursday.
But Britain is not alone in its offer.
US lawmakers are also considering a proposed bill offering sanctuary to Hong Kong residents that has received widespread bipartisan support.
Australian leader Scott Morrison said he was “very actively” considering offering Hong Kongers safe haven.
And Taiwan has opened an office to help Hong Kongers wanting to flee.