Why the West shouldn’t follow in the US’ footsteps regarding Hong Kong bill

By Wang Cong Source:Global Times Published: 2019/12/3 23:28:40

Why the West shouldn’t follow in the US’ footsteps regarding HK bill

Graphics: GT

A sale sign stands out side a store in the Central district of Hong Kong Photo: VCG

After the US enacted two laws that could be potentially punishing for Hong Kong's economy, there is no clear sign that its close allies - including the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia - will follow suit immediately, despite rising calls for them to do so.  

For these countries, the decision presents a huge dilemma as they consider their massive economic interests in the global finance and commerce hub and the potentially damaging countermeasures any such attempt could prompt from Beijing, analysts said on Tuesday.

Ultimately, there is a fact that these Western countries cannot ignore: "Sanctioning Hong Kong is looking for trouble," Liang Haiming, a Hong Kong-based economist, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Take the EU as an example. Hong Kong was the bloc's 20th largest trading partner in 2018 and its eighth-largest partner in Asia, with a total trade volume reaching 46.5 billion euros ($51.5 billion), according to EU data. Additionally, the EU has over 2,200 companies operating in the city.

Germany, Australia and Canada also have huge economic interests in Hong Kong, which serves as a hub for trade in and out of the Chinese mainland. In 2018, trade between Hong Kong and Germany reached 14.12 billion euros, while trade between Hong Kong and Australia stood at $6.9 billion, according to official Hong Kong data. Trade between Canada and Hong Kong reached $3.76 billion in 2018.

Though officials in Germany, the UK, Australia and Canada have long sided with the radical protesters in Hong Kong, thus far they have not publicly announced any concrete actions to follow the US' suit, despite rising domestic calls for them to do so.

In the UK, for example, Foreign Office ministers have threatened to use sanctions laws against individuals in Hong Kong that they deem guilty of human rights abuses, the Guardian reported on November 13. In Canada, there are also calls for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to adopt US-style laws. 

If anything, these countries "should be chastising the US for hurting their interests," Liang said, noting that the US move is "an unjust cause that lacks popular support." 

One of the two new US laws requires the US government, specifically the US State Department, to conduct an annual review of Hong Kong's human rights and democracy status, which could then lead to a change in its special trade arrangement with the US. The move has drawn fury from officials in Beijing, who called it blatant interference in China's internal affairs and a punishment for Hong Kong's economy.

China on Monday announced countermeasures against the US' move, including the suspension of US warship and aircraft visits to the city and the sanctioning of multiple US-based non-governmental organizations. 

If its allies follow in the US' footsteps, they will "also face the ire of China's central government," Liang said.

Newspaper headline: Why the West shouldn’t follow in the US’ footsteps regarding HK bill

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