The US House of Representatives on 1 July passed a bill for sanctions unanimously to punish China for imposing a new, strict security law in Hong Kong. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said China’s new law “signals the death” of the territory’s autonomous legal status.
The house passed the bill by unanimous consent on 1 July after the speaker condemned the new Hong Kong security law at a hearing that the Foreign Services Committee held that morning.
“Beijing’s so-called national security law… signals the death of the one country, two systems principle,” Pelosi said.
The bill will now go to the senate, which has already passed a similar bill to penalise individuals, banks and other entities that embolden or support the new Chinese law. The senate secured the passage of the bill after key lawmakers reached an agreement with the White House to support the bill in exchange for technical changes.
The White House has taken actions against China too, like halting shipments of defence products and related technologies to Hong Kong and restricting the visas of certain former and current officials of the Communist Party of China. It is considering further moves to end the preferential trade treatment for Hong Kong over concerns that its government is coming more under the control of Beijing.
But the US administration has stopped short of more severe measures that could hurt financial markets and affect the president’s reelection. These are contemplated steps like pulling out of the recently signed US trade deal with China or imposing more tariffs on Chinese goods.
China has in the recent months moved to weaken the separate Hong Kong legal system, which the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration had established. The communist state did so by proposing initially an extradition bill last year that would allow Hong Kong residents to be transported to the mainland for prosecution. Though China withdrew that bill, it sparked a massive, ongoing protest movement on the island.
Observers say the new national security law of China would have far-reaching implications beyond the extradition proposal. They say it would set up parallel police and legal systems for the city that are loyal to Beijing and not accountable to local authorities.
Due to the new law, Beijing will be able to take “complete jurisdiction” of legal cases and remove them from the Hong Kong legal system at the request of the CCP, said Carole Petersen, professor of law at University of Hawaii. “At that point Hong Kong’s legal system simply does not apply,” she told the Foreign Affairs Committee this morning. “The mainland Chinese criminal procedure will take over and the person will be prosecuted and tried under mainland law, presumably in the mainland.”