On November 17, a chief foreign correspondent for NBC sent out a tweet that went viral: "The more I talk to sources, the more I'm hearing America's betrayal of the Kurds, and the humiliation, 'misogynistic' 'squashing' of U.S. ambassador in Ukraine for political motivations makes people think, we, Americans, have become the 'bad guys.' Hearing it was gut punch."
The tweet immediately caused an uproar. Many questioned how, as a foreign correspondent, he only now sees this now – despite all the destruction the U.S. has caused in Libya, Syria and Iraq, to name a few, by supporting pro-U.S. factions, even terrorists, in the name of "promoting democracy and human rights."
Yet today, I'm afraid, that list is set to grow a bit longer to include Hong Kong. On November 19, the U.S. Senate passed the so-called "Hong Kong Democracy and Human Rights Act," after the U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill in October. The bill requires an annual review of the city's status as a special free-trade port, and, most crucially, allows for "sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong."
Despite so much rumor and fake news coming out of Hong Kong, any person with the most basic common sense and conscience can see how a small gang of rioters has inflicted growing violence and destruction in Hong Kong. One man was killed by a brick, another set ablaze and countless others assaulted or intimidated. Businesses, including American ones, have been targeted for retaliation, smashed up, set on fire, or forced to close, either for opposing the riots or for merely being linked to the Chinese mainland. Subway facilities have been torched, roads destroyed, the airport paralyzed. The list goes on.
During five months, 700 public disruptions have gripped Hong Kong, dragging the economy into a technical recession.
In light of all that, the U.S. Congress still chose to side with rioters, through this bill. They are earning Americans the title of "bad guys" in the heart of many more people. No need for quotation marks, actually.
Fortunately, Hong Kong is not Tripoli. Note the swiftness of reaction and level of response coming from various authorities in China, a country that takes pride in its tradition of prudence. Within hours of the Senate approving the act, seven official statements were released by the Chinese legislative and political consultative bodies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and three other offices – all opposing it in the strongest possible terms.
Such a swift, stern and unified response is extremely rare, in my eyes. Obviously, China was prepared for such an event and carefully contemplated their reaction and the possible consequences. Note the stark warning, echoed in the statements: If the U.S. continues down the wrong path, China will take resolute measures to fight back. What kind of measures? I don't want to speculate. But the point China wants to make is crystal clear: It won't swallow it.
Hong Kong enjoys special free-port treatment from the U.S., but remember: that's also special treatment for U.S. businesses. By holding that status hostage, the U.S. will surely hurt its own interests. Doesn't this sound familiar, that the U.S. is willing to hurt itself, in order to hurt China? But never forget Hong Kong is not on its own: it has the strong backing of 1.3 billion people and the 12 trillion U.S. dollars Chinese economy. China needs Hong Kong to continue channeling international capital and trade, but China will not blink on matters concerning national sovereignty and territorial integrity.
There may be some inconveniences if the free-port status is put in jeopardy or even placed on hold. Yet China is big enough to weather the difficulties. Just as the trade war has shown, the flexibility of the Chinese people is a tad greater than many in the U.S. could imagine.
In the case of Hong Kong, its role in China's economy has gradually shifted, the city is already set to accelerate its integration into China's broader development, through the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
So, if U.S. lawmakers insist on being bad guys, China won't sit idly by or be intimidated. Hong Kong is not Tripoli.
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