The good news is, China’s first retaliatory move against the US in response to Donald Trump’s signing of the Hong Kong bill has nothing to do with the trade war.
The bad news is, China has announced that it will, in fact, retaliate to the legislation, which Beijing continues to characterize as an intolerable intrusion into the country’s internal affairs.
On Monday, Hua Chunying (a foreign ministry spokeswoman who has a flair for the dramatic when it comes to leveling accusations) told a news briefing that China will target US NGOS, including the National Endowment for Democracy, Human Rights Watch and Freedom House.
She also said Beijing will suspend Hong Kong port visits by the US Navy. “In more normal times, several US naval ships visit Hong Kong annually, a rest-and-recreation tradition that dates back to the pre-1997 colonial era which Beijing allowed to continue after the handover from British to Chinese rule”, Reuters reminds you. “Visits have at times been refused amid broader tensions and two U.S. ships were denied access in August”.
The human rights groups aren’t allowed to work on the Mainland anyway, and it’s as yet unclear what form any sanctions will take. Clearly, the implication is that China will bully people working for the organizations, which sets the stage for more trouble, but that’s speculation for the time being.
The Trump administration cracked down on China’s human rights record in October, when the Commerce department finally pulled the proverbial trigger on Hikvision and a hodgepodge of other firms and entities related to China’s repressive tactics in Xinjiang.
Later that month, Mike Pence delivered his long-awaited foreign policy speech aimed at China, although it was less abrasive than feared. Hua called Mike an arrogant liar the next day. “We hope these Americans can look at themselves in the mirror to fix their own problems and get their own house in order”, she mused.
(Hua Chunying / Reuters)
Getting back to the Hong Kong situation, Hua on Monday reiterated that the US should “correct mistakes and stop interfering in our internal affairs”. “China will take further steps if necessary to uphold Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity and China’s sovereignty”, she added, without specifying what those steps might be.
Hua didn’t say anything about Hu Xijin’s tweet from last week, when the Global Times editor suggested Beijing was considering banning entry to the “drafters” of the Hong Kong legislation.
As for the NGOs, Hua charged that “they shoulder some responsibility for the chaos in Hong Kong [so] they should be sanctioned and pay the price”.