U.S.-China Relations Plunge Further Over Hong Kong

Additional U.S. sanctions imposed . . . 

The U.S. State Department imposed additional financial sanctions and travel bans today on 14 Chinese officials over their role in Beijing’s disqualification last month of four elected opposition legislators in Hong Kong. The disqualifications led to the resignation of 15 other lawmakers. If the new sanctions are meant to punish Beijing for what the U.S. government sees as Beijing’s attack on Hong Kong autonomy and democracy, many also see them as part of the outgoing Trump administration’s effort to lock the incoming Biden administration into a confrontational China policy.

Hard time for Hong Kong’s democratic movement . . .

Recent events do not bode well for Hong Kong’s democratic movement. In addition to the recent loss of the opposition in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, the sentencing last week of Hong Kong’s three leading activists, Joshua Wong, Anges Chow, and Ivan Lam, sent a chilling message to other activists. The trio was charged under Hong Kong’s new security law for organizing, inciting, and attending protests near Hong Kong’s police headquarters in the summer of 2019. In a further blow to Hong Kong’s democratic movement, Jimmy Lai, the founder of pro-democracy paper Apple Daily, has been denied bail after his arrest on fraud charges last week. He will remain in custody until his trial in April 2021.

What’s next in the Washington-Beijing relationship?

While there have been calls from Beijing and sources around Washington to “reset” the relationship in January under a Biden administration, China’s actions in Hong Kong and the hardline American response will make it harder for the two countries to retract from the downward spiral they appear locked in. China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying indicated last week that China would retaliate against the latest U.S. sanctions. And with the EU recently authorizing the use of Magnitsky-style sanctions, analysts are speculating whether the EU will follow the U.S. in sanctioning Chinese officials over Hong Kong.