08 Jun Autonomy of Hong Kong
(GS PAPER- 2, DIPLOMACY
SOURCE- The Hindu)
The Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China. That sets the stage for the possible withdrawal of the preferential trade and financial status the U.S. accords the former British colony.
- Hong Kong has long occupied a peculiar place in the international economic order. It’s not an independent country but can enter trade agreements with other states on its own.
- It sets its own taxes and has its own currency.
- Though it’s part of China, tariffs and customs control applied on Chinese goods don’t apply to Hong Kong.
- When the Hong Kong government attempted to introduce national security legislation in 2003, an estimated 500,000 people turned out to protest against the bill on July 1, 2003—the largest protest the city had seen since its handover from the U.K. The bill was eventually shelved.
- Since then, the city’s government hasn’t attempted to introduce the legislation again.
- Pressure to enact the bill has increased since widespread unrest erupted in June 2019.
- But following the new law, countries are re-evaluating whether the city should continue enjoying its special trade privileges, or be treated as just another mainland Chinese city.
- Hong Kong’s special status is now facing its most urgent crisis yet.
- China’s legislature has approved controversial national security laws for Hong Kong.
- The legislation, aimed at stamping out protests that have rocked the city for the past year, would ban “any acts or activities” that endanger China’s national security, including separatism, subversion, and terrorism – charges often used in mainland China to silence dissidents and other political opponents.
- In short, the law bans sedition, secession, and subversion of China’s central government.
- The law will drastically broaden Beijing’s power over Hong Kong, which last year was roiled by anti-government protests calling for greater democracy and more autonomy from mainland China.
- It would also allow “national security agencies” – potentially Chinese security forces – to operate in the city.
- Critics say it threatens civil liberties in Hong Kong and undermines the “one country, two systems” arrangement that separates the region’s political, legal, and financial infrastructure from mainland China’s.
Present Status of Hong Kong-
- On 1 July 1997, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China and the Basic Law came into effect.
- The Basic Law is the constitutional document of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
- It enshrines within a legal document the important concepts of “one country, two systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and a high degree of autonomy.
- According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s political system and way of life remain unchanged for 50 years.
The reaction of First and Second World Countries-
The move is widely considered a severe blow to Hong Kong’s promised autonomy
- In a joint statement, Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US said: “China’s decision to impose the new national security law on Hong Kong lies in direct conflict with its international obligations.”
- They called on Beijing to work with the Hong Kong government and people to find a “mutually acceptable accommodation”.
- The UK separately said it would extend visa rights for as many as 300,000 Hong Kong British national (overseas) passport holders if China does not change tack.
All about Special Status of Hong Kong-
- In the latest statement, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared that Hong Kong can no longer be deemed to have a high degree of autonomy from China.
- This designation underpins US-Hong Kong relations, as Washington has legislated that the city must remain “sufficiently autonomous” to justify special treatment from the US.
- Under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed last year in support of Hong Kong’s months-long pro-democracy protests, the US government must annually verify to Congress that the city remains autonomous from China, or risks losing its special status with the US.
- Hong Kong’s special trade and economic status with the US exempts it from the tariffs and export controls imposed by Washington on mainland China.
- US senators have already introduced a bill that would impose sanctions on Chinese officials and firms who violate freedoms in Hong Kong.
- The fallout could potentially be much wider, such as bringing an end to the extradition treaty between US and Hong Kong.
The reaction of China-
- China has threatened the US with countermeasures if Washington decides to punish Beijing for its plans to enact the national security law, saying other countries have no right to interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs.
- Some Hong Kong politicians, including the pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip, have tried to dismiss the prospect of US sanctions by saying they wouldn’t affect the local economy very much.
Its Impact on world order-
- The US could impose targeted sanctions and roll back certain privileges.
- Or it could deploy arguably its most aggressive retaliatory tool and revoke Hong Kong’s special trade status.
- This is often referred to as the “nuclear” option and would be hugely damaging not just to Hong Kong’s economy, but also to a lot of US businesses.
The US announcement is likely to infuriate Beijing and further strain relations between the two sides, following disputes over the coronavirus pandemic and a prolonged trade war.