A bipartisan group of five US House representatives have introduced a resolution calling on China to uphold Hong Kong’s autonomy, which they said it is the US’ national interest.

House Resolution 422 was tabled on Friday, just a day ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Handover from the UK to China. It comes as a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping is underway in the city.

The representatives said the resolution emphasised the shared values between the United States and the people of Hong Kong, and urged China adhere to the “One Country, Two Systems” principle which promises Hong Kong’s autonomy.

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Representative Chris Smith
Representative Chris Smith. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“The promises made by Beijing twenty years ago to guarantee Hong Kong’s autonomy, its freedoms and the rule of law are vital interests of the United States and the foundation of the city’s vitality, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit,” said representative Chris Smith.

“Beijing should recognize that Hong Kong’s unique ‘way of life’ is critical for China’s own future prosperity and stability. But if erosions to Hong Kong’s autonomy continue, and Hong Kong becomes just another Chinese city stifled by the heavy hand of repression, the U.S. will have to reassess whether Hong Kong warrants special status under U.S. law.”

See also: ‘Unfortunate’ that Pres. Xi Jinping won’t hear Hong Kong’s pro-democracy voices, US congressmen say

Hong Kong enjoys a special status, different from mainland China, under the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992. But the special status is only justified if Hong Kong is “sufficiently autonomous.”

one country two systems independence
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Representative Ted Yoho said China has interfered with Hong Kong’s governance, denied Hongkongers elections by universal suffrage, violated civil liberties, and sought to increase its influence over – and control of – the city.

“This is just twenty years into the Joint Declaration. Can Hong Kong expect it to get better in the next thirty years? On the occasion of this significant anniversary, this resolution recognizes Hong Kong’s importance and reminds us that Hong Kong deserves to be more than just another Chinese city.”

The move came after China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Sino-British Joint Declaration is “a historical document and no longer has any practical significance.

The three other co-sponsors include representatives Eliot L. Engel, Steve Chabot, and Brad Sherman.

Xi Jinping
Xi Jinping. Photo: GovHK.

Potential dire consequences 

Hung Ho-fung, an associate professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University, said concerns and frustration within US Congress over Hong Kong could build up over time and affect Hong Kong’s special status.

“[Beijing] wants the rest of the world to maintain their recognition of Hong Kong as a separate entity from mainland China… so that the Chinese government and individual officials could do all sort of things internationally under the convenient cover-up of a Hong Kong identity,” he told HKFP.

“It is an open secret… how many officials [can] move their money and relatives to the West under the cover of ‘Hong Kong residents’ and ‘Hong Kong money,’ and how much sensitive technology and foreign capital [can be accessed] to despite all kinds of regulatory hurdles against China via the Hong Kong channel.”

“If Beijing has pushed too far to make it all too difficult for Western countries, U.S. in particular, to pretend that Hong Kong is still autonomous from China, [the] U.S. will have to revoke its recognition of Hong Kong as a separate entity and other countries will follow. It will have dire consequences to the Chinese economy and fortunes of wealthy Chinese officials.”

On Thursday, US congressmen have said that Chinese President Xi Jinping’s tour of Hong Kong failed to present public sentiments, and warned of the danger to Hong Kong posed by Beijing’s crackdown on civil society.

In February, a bipartisan group of US senators have introduced a proposal that will establish heavy punishments for government officials in Hong Kong or mainland China who are responsible for suppressing basic freedoms in the city.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.