After a long period of protests in Hong Kong, the US has intervened in the chaos as Trump signed a Human Rights and Democracy Act that supports pro-democracy protestors in the region.
The Human Rights and Democracy Act invokes an annual review, to check if Hong Kong has enough autonomy to justify its special status with the US.
Why is Hong Kong Protesting?
To answer this question, we have to understand a bit about Hong Kong:
Hong Kong was a British colony until 1997; after which it was handed back to China. With the “one country, two systems” arrangement, it has some freedom, and its people have more rights.
It has its judiciary and a separate legal system from mainland China including freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. But those freedoms –“The Basic Law” are going to expire in 2047 and there is no clarification about what Hong Kong’s status will then be.
Hong Kong’s protests started in June against plans to allow extradition to mainland China. Experts feared this could cripple the judicial independence and endanger the protestors.
In September, the bill was withdrawn; however, the protests continued and now the protestors demand full democracy and an inquiry into brutal police actions. Conflicts between police and activists have become increasingly vicious, with police firing live bullets and protesters attacking officers and throwing petrol bombs.
“Five Demands, Not One Less!”- The motto of Some Protestors.
- For the protests not to be characterized as a “riot”
- Amnesty for arrested protesters
- An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
- Implementation of complete universal suffrage
- The fifth demand, the withdrawal of the bill, has already been met.
The “Trump” Card:
Donald Trump said he signed the law “out of respect for President Xi Jinping, China, and the people of Hong Kong”. However, China’s foreign ministry said it would take “firm countermeasures” – blaming the US of “sinister intentions”. Hong Kong’s government showed concerns, saying the American bill would send a bad signal and would not help to ease the problems.
Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of the Hong Kong protest movement, addressed the US law as a “remarkable achievement!” for “all Hongkongers”.
Trump was a bit confused about whether he would sign the bill, saying he was with Hong Kong, but Xi was “an incredible guy”. However, Trump’s veto power to revoke the bill would have been a complete waste because the bill had widespread congressional support, which meant that even if he vetoed it, lawmakers could potentially vote to overturn his decision. A ban was imposed on the export of crowd-control munitions to the police in Hong Kong – including tear gas, rubber bullets, and stun guns, as Trump signed a second bill.
“The bills 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,” said Trump.