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Hong Kong Democracy Activists Address US Congressional Panel

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Hong Kong Democracy activists leading pro-democracy protests against China have appeared before a Congressional-Executive Commission on China in the US.

They urged the US to quickly pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019, which would make, an annual review of the special economic status that the US granted to Hong Kong in 1992, mandatory. It would also allow the US to impose sanctions on persons it thinks are trying to curb Hong Kong’s democracy.

Activists from Hong Kong have been camping in Washington for a week to lobby with US lawmakers to leverage the special economic status that the US has with Hong Kong to pressurize Beijing to refrain from impinging on democracy in the territory. This special economic status does not cover the rest of China.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China has Senators and House of Representatives from both Democrats and Republicans as members. Many of them have spoken in favor of a stringent Bill.

Ever since Hong Kong returned to Chinas fold in 1997, protests have periodically broken out as China introduces coercive laws from time to time to curb democracy in the territory to bring it more under its control. It is to put an end to such periodic misadventures from China that the activists are urging the US to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act.

Such a Bill would introduce uncertainty in all the US industries which operate in Hong Kong as there would be no guarantee that the laws which apply today will be in force next year or not. Industries like banking; financial services which have been the backbone of Hong Kong’s growth would be adversely affected.

Even companies engaged in emerging technologies like Cryptocurrency would feel unwelcome under such a regulatory regime. As it is, the regulatory regime for Cryptocurrencies is being tightened in the US itself with calls for subjecting them to the same regulations as the banking sector.

The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is also being debated by the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Both the Committees are expected to complete their deliberations and submit their version of the Bill to both the Senate and the House by next week.

The Bill will have to be passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Then, signed by President Trump to become a law.

Trump has so far not commented on the Bill and asked China to address the discord humanely.

This issue is surely going to impact efforts to resolve the ongoing trade war between China and the US in which both the countries have been levying tariffs on goods imported from each other. It will be interesting to see whether the US will try to extract concessions from China and in return, relieve pressure over Hong Kong or will China remain steadfast and weather the storm over Hong Kong.

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