China and the West: Washington’s polarising Hong Kong policy

THE HONG KONG crisis has reached a key juncture after half a year of running street battles between police and protesters.

Following massive turnout for local elections which saw the pro-democracy camp gain 17 out of 18 district councils, the territory is collectively taking stock.

This vote was preceded by escalating police violence, mass arrests and university occupations.

Pro Democracy groups saw success in Hong Kong’s recent council elections

Matters may escalate further with China seeking a greater role in subduing the upheaval stricken semi-autonomous enclave.

The US congress recently past the Hong Kong Human Right and Democracy Act (HKHRDA) something Beijing sees as a “seriously interference.”

It comes amid worsening US-China relations as the two countries’ negotiate an increasingly bitter trade war.

Hong Kong: Washington’s next moves

Beijing sees US foreign policy action on Hong Kong as a “seriously interference.”

A RAND corporation’s senior analyst, Scott W. Harold has suggested China is preparing to take a more direct hand in efforts to quell the protests, with “the potential for fuelling, rather than tamping down, further violence.”

If that happens, there are a number of step America would likely take to protect its persons, property and interests in the former British colony.

The Trump administration is likely to continue providing succour and inspiration to the US flag waving, pro-MAGA wing of the protesters.

Trump’s policy towards Hong Kong is also likely to be rolled up in US-China trade talks with any decision resting on Beijing’s willingness to cut a better deal.

Washington could look to further isolate China over the issue of Hong Kong

The HKHRDA and the Magnitsky Act gives the US authority to sanction officials engaged in “extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognised human rights.”

Expect the US Department of Treasury to begin freezing assets belonging to Hong Kong or Chinese officials implicated in the recent crackdowns.

Washington will also look to isolate China on the issue of Hong Kong by building a common position with allies including Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Taiwan, and UK.

These moves look to frame the ongoing protests in a China-versus-the West framework.

Hurting progressive politics on both sides

Pushing an anti-China narrative simply priorities geopolitical gain over efforts to fight economic inequality, structural racism, and climate change.

Hong Kong workers share many of the grievances of their European, and indeed, mainland Chinese counterparts: rising inequality, insecure work, inadequate housing and unaccountable elites. 

Writing in The Nation, Justice is Global Director Tobita Chow argues the HKHRDA undermines the abundant ground for solidarity between the people of mainland China and Hong Kong.

There is ground for solidarity between mainland Chinese and Hong Kong protesters

Tobita argues progress in Hong Kong toward a more equal, sustainable society will not come about by turning the territory into a tool of US foreign policy.

He writes: “The HKHRDA not only threatens progress in Hong Kong by fortifying divisions between protesters and mainlanders.

It also includes measures aimed at turning Hong Kong into a tool of US foreign policy, such as compelling it to help enforce US sanctions against Iran.”

Whatever next steps the US takes regarding Hong Kong the outcome will see the fortifying of divisions between protesters and mainlanders.

At this crossroads, strengthening solidarity between Hong Kongers and mainlanders is the only path to radically shifting the balance of power in both Beijing and Washington.

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