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Will America's New Hong Kong Human Rights Bill Undermine China-US Trade Talks?

12-02-2019
Hong Kong

China is lashing out against the Trump administration, saying it will suspend US Navy visits to Hong Kong and sanction a range of pro-democracy, non-governmental organizations.

It comes in retaliation for the passage of legislation supporting human rights in Hong Kong by Congress last week.

President Trump signed the two bills aimed at supporting human rights and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

The bills were approved by near-unanimous consent in the House and Senate, even as Trump expressed some concerns about complicating the effort to work out a trade deal with China's President Xi Jinping.

"I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong," Trump said in a statement. "They 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."

But China's Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying repeated accusations Monday that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act "seriously interfered" in Hong Kong's internal affairs.

China is threatening that the US will bear the cost of the decision to show support for the protestors.

Along with suspending visits by official US military ships and aircraft, China is sanctioning organizations including the National Endowment for Democracy, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Human Rights Watch and others.

Chunying accused these organizations, saying they've "performed badly" in the Hong Kong unrest.

"China urges the United States to correct its mistakes and stop any words and deeds that interfere in Hong Kong and China's internal affairs," she said, adding that China may take "further necessary actions" depending on how situations progress.

America's new Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.

The US move to confront China for its Hong Kong crackdown is causing concerns about President Trump's trade negotiations with China. But the president said Monday morning he believes China will still negotiate.

And on Monday there was talk from China indicating that Beijing's focus was on the removal of remaining tariffs on hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Chinese goods.

The BBC reports that analysts say the US and China both want to avoid a delay in negotiations, considering a great deal is at stake.

The two countries have been locked in a trade dispute for more than a year, placing tariffs on billions of dollars of each other's goods.

The Guardian reports the US is expected to place an additional 15 percent tariff on nearly $156 billion of Chinese products by Dec. 15.

Julian Evans-Pritchard, senior China economist at Capital Economics, said the December tariffs are centered on consumer goods and would have "a bigger impact on inflation and households than previous rounds of tariffs did."

"There are still incentives on both sides to push for a deal, provided they can agree on the terms," he said.

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