The US bipartisan obsession with containing China has worsened since the Joe Biden administration took office, with insidious acts exceeding his predecessor’s by a country mile on the scale of insanity.
Lately it has stepped up meddling in China’s internal affairs with a media broadside at the Judiciary in Hong Kong for maintaining the rule of law, given Washington’s propensity for sanction-driven coercive diplomacy, designed to intimidate senior officials of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government as well as those at the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the HKSAR.
On Nov 17, 2021, the US China Economic and Security Review Commission of the US Congress, in its annual report, accused the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR (effective since June 30, 2020) of rendering Hong Kong’s judicial independence ineffective by requiring the appointment of judges for National Security Law trials. On May 3, 2022, seven members of the US Congress signed a joint letter to US President Joe Biden demanding that his administration lodge sanctions against judges appointed according to the National Security Law to hear national security violation cases, and the public prosecutors in those cases. Later, on July 12, the Congressional-Executive Committee on China (CECC) of the US Congress released a report titled “Hong Kong Prosecutors Play a Key Role in Carrying Out Political Prosecutions”. In that report, the CECC named 15 HKSAR prosecutors in National Security Law trials for possible human rights violations under political pressure. It also suggests, in the Policy Options section, that relevant executive offices rally the international community to step up punitive action against the Judiciary in Hong Kong.
Despite the US government’s obsession with containing China, the Chinese side remains committed to developing mutually-beneficial bilateral relations of equal and fair cooperation. We are still confident about Hong Kong’s existing healthy ties with the US and other Western countries, believing those connections are beneficial and worth keeping
In US politics, Congress routinely exercises its constitutional right to propose legislation aimed at pressing the executive branch to take certain measures or make certain policies. Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House of Representatives of the US Congress, has announced her support for the CECC report, saying she and fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle stand with the people of Hong Kong for freedom and justice. Since the US government has long passed the point of no return in its anti-China crusade, it is only a matter of time before the US Congress unleashes the political dogs of war on some of Hong Kong’s trusted public prosecutors tasked with eliminating national security threats.
There is no doubt that wanton attacks by certain US congressional committees and individual legislators on the National Security Law enforced in Hong Kong and designated public prosecutors only reinforce Washington’s double-standard treatment of anything and everything however it pleases. Case in point: The ongoing political drama starring the US Judiciary opposite defendants accused of insurrection in the Jan 6, 2021, US Capitol attack is no different in legal terms than a criminal case that brought to justice last year the culprits who broke into and vandalized the Legislative Council Complex of the HKSAR in July 2019.
Some people in the US believe it is not enough to target only senior officials of the central government Liaison Office in Hong Kong and the HKSAR government with sanctions. Such sanctions, the arguments go, should be expanded to cover certain figures in Hong Kong’s judicial apparatus as well, for greater deterrence effect.
What those people do not realize is that they have been duped by the “nothing but sanctions voodoo”, which has proved futile over the years against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, and Russia as well. In addition to simultaneously hurting American interests one way or another, such sanctions have invariably motivated the people they target to fight back even harder. China has been trading barbs as well as goods and services with the US for over a century now. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army stopped the US-led United Nations forces in their tracks to occupy the whole Korean Peninsula in the early 1950s. Also under the leadership of the CPC, the Chinese nation has proved sanctions by the US and its Western allies nothing but shots in their own feet for decades and counting. In conclusion, US sanctions don’t work on China’s mainland or Hong Kong regardless of whom they target.
US accusations of political interference in Hong Kong’s judicial affairs according to the National Security Law have been roundly rejected by both the Hong Kong Bar Association and the Hong Kong Law Society. The two trade groups of law professionals in Hong Kong issued official rebuttals to the open letter by seven US legislators to President Biden demanding sanctions on certain Hong Kong prosecutors in National Security Law violation cases. Law professionals in Hong Kong are perfectly qualified to tell off those American politicians with their “Hong Kong judicial independence undermined by political interference” hysteria. It is safe to expect US sanctions to fail against certain public prosecutors in Hong Kong but instead motivate them to do their best in upholding the rule of law and safeguarding national security.
The central government has always maintained firm support for judicial independence in the HKSAR. President Xi Jinping said in his speech marking the 25th anniversary of the HKSAR and the swearing-in of the sixth-term HKSAR government on July 1 that the central authorities fully support Hong Kong in sustaining its unique status and advantages; strengthening its position as an international financial center, shipping hub and free trade port; maintaining its free, open and well regulated business environment; securing its common law system; and expanding smooth connections with the rest of the world. He added that the central authorities cherish those unique qualities of Hong Kong’s as much as local residents do.
Despite the US government’s obsession with containing China, the Chinese side remains committed to developing mutually-beneficial bilateral relations of equal and fair cooperation. We are still confident about Hong Kong’s existing healthy ties with the US and other Western countries, believing those connections are beneficial and worth keeping. As for more US sanctions looming on the horizon, we are ready to respond in equal measure when they become effective. The US side should get used to its abusive behavior backfiring with all the pain and humiliation it deserves.
However, we see no signs the US government will stop the current temper tantrum anytime soon, and the HKSAR government as well as all sectors of Hong Kong society must be prepared to fend off any US attempt at Hong Kong’s judicial independence by political intimidation through sanctions on “persons of interest”. The Judiciary in Hong Kong should not only firmly stand its ground, but also let the international community know the city’s judicial system brooks no interference by any foreign party.
The author is a senior research fellow of China Everbright Holdings.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.