Overwhelming bipartisan support for bill . . .
U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act into law on Wednesday, another escalation in the United States’ response to the political turmoil in Hong Kong. During the legislative process, the bill received bipartisan support in Congress, while last week the House of Representatives voted 417-to-1 in favour of the bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate.
Implications for Hong Kong government, officials . . .
The Act would require the US Secretary of State to review the autonomy of Hong Kong on an annual basis. The review would determine whether Hong Kong retains the special status provided under the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act, such as separate treatment of Hong Kong from China in respect to economic and trade matters, and access to sensitive technologies typically under export controls. This review is likely to introduce uncertainty in Hong Kong’s business environment. Another immediate and more dramatic impact of the Act is that the U.S. government can now impose sanctions on any officials deemed responsible for undermining fundamental freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong. These sanctions range from prohibiting transactions coming into the United States to denying entry to both Hong Kong and Chinese officials.
International ripple effect . . .
The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act also stipulates that the U.S. government would “co-ordinate with allies . . . to promote democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.” This may have a broader international ripple effect on the international community’s policy response to Hong Kong. In fact, in Ottawa, prominent voices have begun pushing for similar legislation in Canada, while Hong Kong Watch, a U.K.-based charity whose Canadian representative includes Aileen Calverley, has urged Canada to hold hearings at the House of Commons and Senate on the protests in Hong Kong. Other calls have included the proposed use of Canada’s Sergei Magnitsky Law, which allows the government to impose asset freezes and travel bans on human rights abusers, on Hong Kong and Chinese officials.