As U.S. lawmakers return from recess and prepare to discuss legislation that seeks to safeguard Hong Kong’s autonomy, Chinese state media has lashed out at the United States for initiating such a proposal.
Meanwhile, the Hong Kong government used rhetoric similar to the Chinese regime to accuse U.S. Congress of trying to interfere with the city’s “internal affairs.”
On Sept. 8, thousands of Hong Kong protesters marched from Chater Garden in the business hub of Central to the U.S. Consulate office. They handed to a consulate representative a petition letter that called for U.S. Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which would require the U.S. secretary of state to annually certify that Hong Kong is “sufficiently autonomous” from mainland China as to merit special treatment by the United States.
Since the former British colony was handed back to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, the United States has treated Hong Kong as a separate entity from mainland China in matters of economics and trade. For example, Hong Kong goods entering the U.S. market currently aren’t penalized by the U.S. tariffs now imposed on Chinese goods.
The bill also proposes economic sanctions and penalties on persons who are found to be responsible for actions that “suppress basic freedoms in Hong Kong.”
Many Hong Kong protesters believe the U.S. proposal would place economic pressure on both the Hong Kong government and the Chinese regime, thereby ensuring that the city’s autonomy and freedoms will remain intact.
After the Sept. 8 march, Chinese state media printed aggressive rhetoric attacking both the protesters and the U.S. government.
“The extremely small number of radicals in Hong Kong have become hysterical,” stated a Sept. 9 editorial by Global Times, a hawkish state-run newspaper. “They attempted to hijack the entire future of Hong Kong with suicide attacks on the ‘one country, two systems’ policy,” referring to the model by which the Chinese regime promised to rule Hong Kong while preserving its autonomy and freedoms.
Millions of Hongkongers began protesting against a Beijing-backed extradition bill because of concern that the proposal—which would allow the Chinese regime to transfer individuals to face trial in mainland Chinese courts—would erode the city’s independent judiciary and rule of law.
While Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Sept. 4 announced that the bill would be formally withdrawn, meeting one of the protesters’ key demands, many Hongkongers said they would continue to advocate for their other causes, including universal suffrage in the city’s elections and an independent inquiry into police use of force during demonstrations.
The Global Times criticized the protesters for appealing to the U.S. government, comparing them to “a flock of chickens seeking weasels as bodyguards.”
The newspaper also lambasted U.S. officials who have expressed support for protesters, calling them “shameless,” “narcissistic,” and “making a show.” It also warned that Beijing would take “resolute action” against the protesters if the situation in Hong Kong “continues to deteriorate.”
A Sept. 9 editorial in the English-language state-run newspaper China Daily similarly accused the United States of “poking its dirty nose in other countries’ internal affairs to advance its not-so-hidden agenda”—that being, undermining China’s economic prosperity.
The article claimed that the Sept. 8 protesters, many of whom waved U.S. flags to appeal to the U.S. government, were evidence that the United States has been behind the protests all along. The Chinese regime has consistently pushed that theory, in an effort to appeal to mainland Chinese citizens’ nationalistic sentiment.
China’s recent aggressive rhetoric is, in fact, a demonstration of the regime’s fear of and inability to confront the Hong Kong crisis, China affairs commentator Cheng Xiaorong stated.
“The battle on the Hong Kong streets are directly on display in front of the world [through media reports],” Cheng wrote in an editorial for the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times. Because Beijing can’t control international public opinion about the protests, “it has no other methods other than vilifying them [protesters] and imposing brutality,” he wrote.
Hong Kong Government
Following the Sept. 8 protests, the city government issued a statement, expressing “regret” over the proposed U.S. legislation.
“The [government] reiterates that foreign legislatures should not interfere in any form in the internal affairs of the HKSAR [Hong Kong special administrative region],” the statement read.
Meanwhile, Edward Yau Tang-wah, the city’s secretary for commerce and economic development, told Hong Kong media on Sept. 9 that he believes the U.S. legislation is “unnecessary.” He added that the city’s “highly autonomous economic system” was mandated by its constitution, the Basic Law, and such autonomy had nothing to do with the law of any other country.
U.S. lawmakers in both chambers have said they are committed to passing the bill, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) calling for Congress to prioritize voting on the measure.
On Sept. 9, hundreds of uniformed students, many of them wearing masks, formed human chains in districts across Hong Kong in support of the current protest movement. They called on the city government to meet all of the protesters’ demands.
Rows of students and alumni joined hands chanting, “Hong Kong people, add oil,” and “liberate Hong Kong, the revolution of our times,” a protest rallying cry.
“The school-based human chain is the strongest showcase of how this protest is deep-rooted in society, so deep-rooted that it enters through the school students,” Alan Leong, an alumnus of Wah Yan College in the city’s Kowloon district, told Reuters.
Epoch Times staff member Frank Fang contributed to this report.