World China leaves all questions open

China leaves all questions open

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Dhe vote in People’s Congress was just a formality on Thursday. 2,878 delegates from the Chinese bogus parliament voted for a national security law for Hong Kong to be formulated and passed in the coming weeks. One MP voted against and six abstained. When the result was announced in the Great Hall of the People in the afternoon, there was thunderous applause. No MP could have afforded not to clap at that moment.

In the morning, the party media had made it clear once again how important the decision-making leadership was. Without the law, Hong Kong was “an easy target for enemy foreign forces,” commented the Xinhua news agency. Only in this way can Hong Kong “escape the chaos” into which “black violence” plunged the city, wrote the “Volkszeitung”. And the sheet of the nationalist party wing “Global Times” etched, whatever America decides to Hong Kong, is nothing but “waste paper”. Official media had previously distributed a cartoon depicting the Security Act as a pesticide – plus three insects with the heads of three people, including the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

As expected, the warning shot that Pompeo had fired towards Beijing the evening before had no effect on the vote in the People’s Congress. But the leadership is still covering what exactly should be in the security law, probably to maintain freedom of movement. Pompeo had announced that he had issued a report to Congress saying that it was no longer justified to give Hong Kong the same preferential treatment it had been in place before Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 and has been maintained since then. “No sensible person today can say that Hong Kong still has a high degree of autonomy from China.”

This official reassessment of the situation has potentially far-reaching consequences for Hong Kong’s economic status. How they turn out, however, is the sole responsibility of the President. He may order Hong Kong to face the same US punitive tariffs as the rest of China and impose the same restrictions on the import of American high technology. This would also burden Chinese companies, which do most of their foreign business from Hong Kong. It would also harm American companies, which is why this step is unlikely to be expected for the time being. Hong Kongers also have easier access to America visas than mainland Chinese. Parts of the elite on the mainland benefit from having a Hong Kong second pass.

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This privilege could also fall. Sanctions, such as account bans and travel restrictions, against people and security bodies involved in the drafting and implementation of the law would also be possible. So far Trump merely stated that measures would be announced before the end of the week. “Very powerful, I think,” he said. The Reuters news agency reported on Thursday that the measures could be phased in and depend on how China is implementing the proposed security law in practice. David Stilwell, department head for East Asia at the State Department, said the impact on American companies and the Hong Kong population would be considered.

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