The U.S. Department of State released on March 31, 2021 the 2021 Hong Kong Policy Act Report. See U.S. Department of State, Hong Kong Policy Act Report, Press Statement, March 31, 2021, https://www.state.gov/hong-kong-policy-act-report/; U.S. Department of State, 2021 Hong Kong Policy Act Report, REPORT, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, March 31 2021, https://www.state.gov/2021-hong-kong-policy-act-report/.
The Press statement is copied below (emphasis added).
“Over the past year, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has continued to dismantle Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, in violation of its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law. In particular, the PRC government’s adoption and the Hong Kong government’s implementation of the National Security Law (NSL) have severely undermined the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong.
“Each year, the Department of State submits to Congress the Hong Kong Policy Act Report and accompanying certification. In conjunction with this year’s report, I have certified to Congress that Hong Kong does not warrant differential treatment under U.S. law in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1, 1997.
“This report documents many of the actions the PRC and Hong Kong governments have taken against Hong Kong’s promised high degree of autonomy, freedoms, and democratic institutions. These include the arbitrary arrests and politically-motivated prosecutions of opposition politicians, activists, and peaceful protesters under the NSL and other legislation; the postponement of Legislative Council elections; pressure on judicial independence and academic and press freedoms; and a de facto ban on public demonstrations.
“I am committed to continuing to work with Congress and our allies and partners around the world to stand with people in Hong Kong against the PRC’s egregious policies and actions. As demonstrated by the March 16 Hong Kong Autonomy Act update, which listed 24 PRC and Hong Kong officials whose actions reduced Hong Kong’s autonomy, we will impose consequences for these actions. We will continue to call on the PRC to abide by its international obligations and commitments; to cease its dismantlement of Hong Kong’s democratic institutions, autonomy, and rule of law; to release immediately and drop all charges against individuals unjustly detained in Hong Kong; and to respect the human rights of all individuals in Hong Kong.”
The Report covers a range of issues including discussion of:
- national security law,
- impact on rule of law,
- arrests, bail, and investigations proceedings,
- impact on democratic institutions,
- progress towards universal suffrage and impact on the legislature,
- impact on the judiciary,
- Impact on Freedom of Assembly,
- Impact on Freedoms of Speech and Association,
- Impact on Freedom of the Press,
- Disinformation/Malign Political Influence Activities,
- Impact on Internet Freedoms,
- Impact on Freedom of Movement,
- Impact on Freedom of Religion or Belief,
- Impact on U.S. Citizens,
- Impact on Academics and Exchanges,
- Areas of Remaining Autonomy,
- U.S.-Hong Kong Cooperation and Agreements,
- Export Controls,
- Sanctions Implementation,
- U.S. Sanctions
- Hong Kong Policy Act Findings
The summary of the report is copied below.
“Consistent with sections 205 and 301 of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 (the “Act”) (22 U.S.C. 5725 and 5731) and section 7043(f)(3)(C) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021 (Div. K, P.L. 116-260), the Department submits this report and the enclosed certification on conditions in Hong Kong from June 2020 through February 2021 (“covered period”).
“The Department of State assesses during the covered period, the central government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) took new actions directly threatening U.S. interests in Hong Kong and inconsistent with the Basic Law and the PRC’s obligation pursuant to the Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984 to allow Hong Kong to enjoy a high degree of autonomy. In the Certification of Hong Kong’s Treatment under United States Laws, the Secretary of State certified Hong Kong does not warrant treatment under U.S. law in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1, 1997.
“By unilaterally imposing on Hong Kong the Law of the PRC on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (NSL), the PRC dramatically undermined rights and freedoms in Hong Kong, including freedoms protected under the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration. Since the imposition of the NSL in June 2020, Hong Kong police arrested at least 99 opposition politicians, activists, and protesters on NSL-related charges including secession, subversion, terrorism, and collusion with a foreign country or external elements. These include 55 people arrested in January for organizing or running in pan-democratic primary elections in July 2020, 47 of whom were formally charged with subversion on February 28. Additionally, the Hong Kong government used COVID-19-related public health restrictions to deny authorizations for public demonstrations and postponed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) elections for at least one year.”
Ongoing WTO dispute filed by Hong Kong
Hong Kong has filed a request for consultations and a request for a panel at the WTO to contest actions during the Trump Administration which resulted in a requirement that goods from Hong Kong exported to the United States be labeled as manufactured in China because of prior actions by China that limited Hong Kong autonomy. A panel has been established but not yet composed. See WTO, DS597: United States — Origin Marking Requirement, https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/dispu_e/cases_e/ds597_e.htm. I have reviewed the dispute in prior posts. See February 23, 2021, WTO Dispute Settlement Body meeting of February 22, 2021 — panels authorized in two matters; impasse on the Appellate Body remains, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2021/02/23/wto-dispute-settlement-body-meeting-of-february-22-2021-panels-authorized-in-two-matters-impasse-on-appellate-body-remains/; January 16, 2020, Request for the establishment of a WTO panel by Hong Kong, China contesting the U.S. origin marking requirement, https://currentthoughtsontrade.com/2021/01/16/request-for-the-establishment-of-a-wto-panel-by-hong-kong-china-contesting-the-u-s-origin-marking-requirement/.
What is clear from yesterday’s Hong Kong Policy Act Report is that the concerns in the United States on the actions by China to restrict Hong Kong’s autonomy have not gone away with the Biden Administration but have increased with the escalating actions by the Chinese government. While Hong Kong will pursue its challenge, one shouldn’t expect a change in U.S. position nor should one expect a resolution in the WTO in the next several years.