China fu­ri­ous as Trump signs bill on Hong Kong rights

The National - News - - NEWS WORLD -

China re­acted fu­ri­ously to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump sign­ing two bills on Hong Kong hu­man rights and said the US would bear the con­se­quences.

A foreign min­istry state­ment on Thurs­day re­peated heated con­dem­na­tions of the laws and said China would re­spond. It said all the peo­ple of Hong Kong and China op­posed the move.

It is not clear, how­ever, ex­actly how Bei­jing will hit back.

Chi­nese Vice Foreign Min­is­ter Le Yucheng lodged a “strong protest” with US am­bas­sador Terry Branstad, with the min­istry say­ing he had “stressed that China strongly urges the US side to cor­rect mis­takes and change course”.

Mr Le also urged the US to “re­frain from putting the bill into prac­tice, and im­me­di­ately stop in­ter­fer­ing in Hong Kong af­fairs and China’s in­ter­nal af­fairs, so as to avoid fur­ther dam­age to China-US re­la­tions and co-op­er­a­tion in im­por­tant ar­eas”.

Mr Trump signed the bills, which were ap­proved by near-unan­i­mous con­sent in the House and Se­nate, even as he ex­pressed some con­cerns about com­pli­cat­ing the ef­fort to work out a trade deal with China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping.

“I signed these bills out of re­spect for Pres­i­dent Xi, China and the peo­ple of Hong Kong,” Mr Trump said. “They are be­ing en­acted in the hope that lead­ers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of China and Hong Kong will be able to am­i­ca­bly set­tle their dif­fer­ences, lead­ing to long-term peace and pros­per­ity for all.”

Congress ap­proved the bills last week after months of un­rest in the semi-au­ton­o­mous Chi­nese territory. Be­fore Wed­nes­day’s sign­ing an­nounce­ment, Mr Trump would com­mit only to giv­ing the mea­sures a “hard look”. The Hong Kong Hu­man Rights and Democ­racy Act re­quires the US pres­i­dent to re­view the city’s favourable trade sta­tus an­nu­ally and threat­ens to re­voke it if the territory’s free­doms are quashed. It also man­dates sanc­tions on Chi­nese and Hong Kong of­fi­cials who carry out hu­man rights abuses.

Mr Trump also signed leg­is­la­tion ban­ning sales of tear gas, rub­ber bul­lets and other equip­ment used by Hong Kong’s se­cu­rity forces to put down the protests.

China’s foreign min­istry called the laws a “naked hege­monic ac­tion” that se­ri­ously in­ter­fered in Hong Kong and China’s in­ter­nal af­fairs, and breached in­ter­na­tional law and “fun­da­men­tal norms of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions”.

“The US side ig­nored facts, turned black to white and bla­tantly gave en­cour­age­ment to vi­o­lent crim­i­nals who smashed and burnt, harmed in­no­cent city res­i­dents, tram­pled on the rule of law and en­dan­gered so­cial or­der,” the state­ment read.

The laws’ ba­sic pur­pose is to un­der­mine Hong Kong’s pros­per­ity and sta­bil­ity along with the “his­tor­i­cal progress of the great re­ju­ve­na­tion of the Chi­nese na­tion”, it said.

It called the mea­sures “ex­tremely evil in na­ture and dan­ger­ous in mo­tive”.

“We ad­vise the US not to act in­cau­tiously, oth­er­wise China will be re­quired to coun­ter­act res­o­lutely and all the con­se­quences cre­ated by this will have to be borne by the US side,” the foreign min­istry said.

The two coun­tries are locked in a trade war and have deep dif­fer­ences over China’s claims to the South China Sea and Tai­wan, hu­man rights and ac­cu­sa­tions of Chi­nese in­dus­trial es­pi­onage.

Mr Trump ac­knowl­edged last Fri­day he was weigh­ing the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of sign­ing the bill.

“Look, we have to stand with Hong Kong,” Mr Trump said. “But I’m also stand­ing with Pres­i­dent Xi. He’s a friend of mine. He’s an in­cred­i­ble guy.”

Ac­tivists hailed Mr Trump’s ac­tion.

Figo Chan is a Hong Kong pro­tester who re­ceived the John Mc­Cain Prize for Lead­er­ship in Pub­lic Ser­vice in Canada last week­end.

“I know that many peo­ple in Hong Kong are happy that the US gov­ern­ment has passed a new bill,” Mr Chan said.

“No one wants to die and no one wants to be hurt. I hope that cit­i­zens of many dif­fer­ent coun­tries can, in their own way, fight for democ­racy.”

Reuters

A man protests in Hong Kong on Thurs­day, days after Don­ald Trump signed two bills on hu­man rights in the territory

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