US shows again it doesn’t care about struggles of Hong Kong residents
Published: Mar 18, 2021 12:00 AM
The street view of Hong Kong Photo: VCG

The street view of Hong Kong Photo: VCG

 US President Joe Biden ran on a promise to reverse the vicious, erratic policies of his predecessor Donald Trump. But on Wednesday, the Biden administration took a step that appears to be taken straight out of Trump's playbook.

Repeating similar accusations against China's internal policies in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), the Biden administration imposed financial sanctions against 24 Chinese mainland and HKSAR officials, whose actions, the US claimed without evidence, "reduced Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy."

In rationalizing the sanctions, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday that the sanctions underscore the US' "deep concern" over electoral reform in the HKSAR and that the US was "speaking out for the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong." 

This rhetoric is more of the same following the Trump administration and its sanctions against Hong Kong, including revoking Hong Kong's preferential treatment as a separate customs territory from the Chinese mainland.

Does the US really care about the struggles of residents in the HKSAR? That is what US officials are saying, but it is not shown in their actions. If anything, the sanctions, particularly those imposed on Wednesday, lay bare how deaf the US is to the hardship people in the city face.

US officials appeared to be timing the sanctions with a widely watched high-level dialogue scheduled for Thursday in Alaska, in an apparent bid to strike a tough tone ahead of the talks. That should say enough about the US' real political intentions - seeking extra leverage in pressuring China at the meeting. 

However, the sanctions also coincided with fresh signs of struggles by many Hong Kong residents due to an economic downturn that started during the social unrest in 2019 and was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One day ahead of the US sanctions, HKSAR official data showed that the unemployment rate in the city climbed to 7.2 percent in February, the highest level in almost 17 years. 

Meanwhile, Hong Kong continues to face a daunting task to pull itself out of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related economic fallout, along with a slew of deep-seated issues such as jobs and housing that were highlighted during the social unrest two years ago and taken advantage of by radical secessionists. 

Anyone who actually cares about the residents in Hong Kong would see the urgency of addressing these issues, rather than relentlessly seeking to undermine any such efforts.

The NPC decision earlier this month to improve the HKSAR's electoral system and close loopholes as well as the National Security Law passed and implemented last year are all part of China's comprehensive efforts to address the political and social issues and ensure stability and prosperity in the city.

Looking at the US, there has certainly been a lot of talk about "concerns" for people in Hong Kong, but Washington, both under Biden and Trump, has not taken any meaningful action that would contribute to the stability and prosperity of the city. It has shown great propensity for inciting violence among some Hong Kong residents who would naturally face legal trouble. But when it comes to actually helping to restore peace and prosperity in the city, it has shown no interest at all. 

On the contrary, the US is actively trying to undermine that. The sanctions, particularly stripping Hong Kong of its special customs status, will only bring damage to the city's economy that employs and feeds its 7.5 million residents.

While likely to also prove futile, the sanctions show the US' lack of interest in actual peace and prosperity in the city because they are aimed at stopping China's efforts to lift up the city from its political, economic and social woes.

As Chinese officials often say, no one cares more about the HKSAR's stability and prosperity than China itself. As the US takes more actions to reveal its true intentions, it will become clearer to more people, not just in the city and the mainland but around the world.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. Bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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