When President Trump meets Saturday with Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Japan, the U.S. president should bring up China’s assault on the sovereignty and autonomy of Hong Kong.
The Chinese Communist Party has pressured G20 participants to remain formally silent on the crisis in Hong Kong. President Trump should talk to Xi about it anyway. It is the right thing to do, and America has significant leverage in this context.
Earlier this month, 2 million protesters filled the streets of Hong Kong to oppose the latest assault by the Chinese Communist Party – this time in the form of a controversial extradition bill that would subject them and any foreigner in Hong Kong to China’s politicized and corrupt judicial system.
This was only the latest push in what has become a systematic campaign by the Communist Party and Xi to impose control on the city, which is a former British colony.
The Communist Party is succeeding. The people of Hong Kong are at risk of losing control over their city, and with it their freedom. Xi is slowly crushing Hong Kong under the weight of his Communist regime.
In 1992, five years before Britain transferred control of Hong Kong to China, Congress passed the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act. In that law, Congress laid out a number of favorable conditions for Hong Kong – including separate customs and export arrangements, provided the city maintained certain levels of autonomy from the Chinese government.
The people of Hong Kong are at risk of losing control over their city, and with it their freedom. Xi is slowly crushing Hong Kong under the weight of his Communist regime.
The Communist Party would like to keep the favorable conditions in place, if only because it exploits them to get around U.S. restrictions and sanctions on Chinese money laundering, technology transfers and trade.
However, Chinese leaders would also like to keep eroding Hong Kong’s sovereignty in broad and granular ways. Xi has gone so far as to arrest Hong Kong booksellers who sold materials criticizing his tyrannical rule.
The Chinese have been very careful to erode Hong Kong’s autonomy at a pace and in a manner that doesn’t trigger an American reassessment of our Hong Kong policy. President Trump can and should tell Xi that the Chinese haven’t been careful enough, and that both the executive branch and Congress will begin pushing back.
Earlier this month I introduced bipartisan legislation with Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., called the Hong Kong Policy Reevaluation Act of 2019. It amends the 1992 law by mandating a U.S. government-wide review led by the State Department that exposes China’s systematic exploitation of Hong Kong and identifies the individuals responsible for it.
The Chinese Communist Party knows it is vulnerable. Xi and his cutouts in Hong Kong eventually decided to indefinitely suspend consideration of the extradition bill in the face of the overwhelming protests that flooded the city. They will wait until the protests calm down and the international community is distracted to try again.
That will not be adequate for American policymakers. The Chinese extradition bill should be completely withdrawn from future consideration, and officials should take steps to restore and ensure Hong Kong’s autonomy.
The United States will continue to side with the men and women of Hong Kong.
Dictators fear light because it exposes the lies underpinning their regimes. The Chinese Communist Party targets Hong Kong for the same reason it threatens Taiwan and persecutes Uighurs, Tibetans, Christians, and dissidents – and for the same reason it treats Americans and other foreigners with racial contempt and ideological suppression.
China’s leaders are afraid of freedom. They should be.