China hits back as US, Five Eyes allies sanction Hong Kong
Washington shows disrespect for bilateralism, multilateralism: HKSAR govt
Published: Aug 20, 2020 08:48 PM

Hong Kong. Photo: VCG

China reacted against the US which motivated its allies from the Five Eyes alliance to sanction Hong Kong, by suspending the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's mutual judicial assistance with the US and its closest allies.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that they have decided to suspend Hong Kong's implementation of the treaty on mutual judicial assistance between the city and the US, following Washington's decision to suspend or terminate three bilateral agreements with Hong Kong, including the extradition treaty.

The US move on Wednesday came after four other Five Eyes intelligence alliance countries suspended their extradition treaties with Hong Kong.   

Zhao Lijian, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, condemned the US move at Thursday's press briefing, saying the central government supports the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's announcement, which said the US attempted to use Hong Kong as a pawn against the central government. 

The US decision reflects its disrespect for bilateralism and multilateralism, and should be condemned by the international community, the HKSAR government spokesperson said on Thursday.

The three suspended or terminated agreements involve the transfer of fugitives and sentenced people, and tax exemptions for income derived from the international operations of ships.

Observers believe nobody wins with the US move. They said as the presidential election approaches, the Trump administration is likely to upgrade its "craziness."  

The US suspension of judicial cooperation with Hong Kong will bring about reciprocal damage, making the two sides a "paradise for fugitives" to each other, said Tian Feilong, a legal expert on Hong Kong affairs at Beihang University in Beijing, noting it is the US that is wielding its international influence trying to weaken Hong Kong's global status.

The HKSAR government said that since the enactment of the fugitive extradition agreement in 1998, 69 fugitive offenders surrendered to the US from Hong Kong, much higher than the 23 fugitives surrendered to the HKSAR by the US. 

Since the crimes committed by fugitives mostly involve fraud, drug trafficking, murder, sexual offenses, money laundering, corruption and theft, suspending the agreement will allow them to evade law enforcement. As such, the US will need to be answerable to the rule of law, to the American people and to the international community, the HKSAR government said. 

The clash between the US and China also weighed on other countries. Liu Weidong, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute of American Studies, told the Global Times that the US believes that if it doesn't enlist its allies, US pressure on Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland would have very limited effect.  

Besides the "Five Eyes," Japanese Defense Minister Taro Kono recently expressed Japan's interest to eventually become the "sixth eye." US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's lobby in eastern and central European countries was also regarded as an anti-China tour.

The US always pressures its allies to cooperate with its anti-China policies. However, since other countries do not have the same strategic interests as the US and only agree under US pressure and threats, it is doubted how far they can cooperate with the US in the future, Liu said. 

US allies, shaken by years of Trump denigrating them and pulling out of international accords, are closely paying attention to Joe Biden's plans to restore relationships, Washington-based media The Hill reported on Sunday.

Some experts noted that the US policy against Hong Kong has had little impact, but Tian warned that China must be well prepared and speed up development.

Earlier this month, the US also imposed so-called sanctions against 11 officials of the central government and the HKSAR government. 

Even if there is a change in the US presidency, the overall course of suppression of China will not change, Tian warned. If US-China ties deteriorate on Hong Kong affairs, possible financial and trade sanctions would affect Hong Kong's international engagement and the status of the Hong Kong dollar.

With the US election turning into an anti-China race, there is still a possibility that Trump will escalate the conflict, Tian said, noting that China should leave out any illusions and become stronger to find a new way out of US containment.