The US is unlikely to punish Hong Kong by changing its tech export policy, according to Pro-Beijing Liberal Party’s leader Felix Chung. Chung cited recent developments in the ongoing US-China trade war as grounds for his prediction.

The pro-business lawmaker Chung tabled a motion in 2016 urging the legislature to discuss enacting a national security law. The motion was scheduled to be debated in November last year. Chung then retracted it that month in favour of a debate on US-China trade instead, saying the latter was a more important issue.

Felix Chung
Felix Chung. File Photo:

The retraction came after the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission (USCC) published its annual report. The report suggested Washington review its export control policy for civilian technology with military applications to Hong Kong, citing declining freedoms in the city. Chung said at the time that Hong Kong would be  “finished” if the US started treating it as if it were another Chinese city.

But when attending an online talk show hosted by former Democratic Party lawmaker Emily Lau on Monday, Chung said the risk of the US taking punitive action against Hong Kong had decreased.

“Look at Trump – it’s a mess inside his own country,” Chung said, referring to the recent US budget shutdown over the Mexico border wall. “They also entered a 90-day truce with China, and China has been responding to the requests – the US told it to buy soybean and wheat, and reduce auto tariffs, and it did.”

Chinese and US trade officials had been discussing the matter in Beijing on Monday. “I believe some results will eventually come out of the discussions,” Chung said. “If there are some results, the situation in [Hong Kong] would be lower risk.”

“I believe the chances of the suggestions in the USCC report being implemented are not high,” Chung added.

Under the 1992 United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, the US’ special policy towards the city – which is different from its policy towards China – is only justified if Hong Kong is “sufficiently autonomous.”

Carrie Lam Xi Jinping
Carrie Lam. Photo: GovHK.

Chung said he had heard that Chief Executive Carrie Lam may visit Los Angeles soon for business and cultural activities, but not political issues. He added that he did not have any further details on these plans.

“If other countries have doubts, she must explain them. She should tell people that Hong Kong’s separate customs territory status, or its economic system, is different from common cities in [China],” he said.

Chung said the Hong Kong government has attached greater importance to the issue after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang mentioned Hong Kong’s separate customs territory in a meeting with Lam last month, in a rare move.

But Chung said he believed it may not be the right time for Lam to visit Washington DC.

“If she goes now, the US side may not have time to entertain her. Even if she is being entertained, she may not meet top-level officials. When [former chief executive] Tung Chee-hwa visited the US, he was at least greeted by the vice president. It will not be reasonable if Lam is greeted by a minister,” he said.

Kurt Tong
US Consul General Kurt Tong. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Last month, US Consul General Kurt Tong published an article in Chinese-language newspaper Ming Pao, writing that trade with the US was very beneficial to Hong Kong.

Chung said that he spoke to Tong and understood that he did not support the suggestions in the USCC report.

“[Tong] will give his views back home,” Chung said. “But the Hong Kong government must do follow up work to help.”

Chung added that he did not plan to travel to the US to lobby US politician.

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.