A pair of US senators have tabled a new bill to amend the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 to require a report on “how the People’s Republic of China exploits Hong Kong to circumvent the laws of the United States.”

Republican Senator Ted Cruz and Democratic Senator Ed Markey sponsored the bill, which was introduced on Wednesday. The bill was read twice and was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations.

Senator Ted Cruz. Photo: Gage Skidmore.

The Policy Act expresses support for the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration, which defines the city’s semi-autonomous nature. As such, the US regards Hong Kong as a separate entity from mainland China when it comes to international commerce providing the territory is “sufficiently autonomous” to justify special treatment.

See also: Explainer: The US treats Hong Kong as a ‘separate territory’ for trade purposes, but for how long?

Cruz and Markey’s bill will have to pass at the Senate and House of Representatives before the US president signs it to become law.

It was tabled as protests broke out in Hong Kong over the controversial extradition bill.

Ed Markey. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/pomsandpolitics.

“The People’s Republic of China has long exploited Hong Kong’s special legal treatment under U.S. law,” Cruz said. “It uses Hong Kong’s open economy to launder money, evade tariffs, break sanctions, and acquire sensitive intellectual property. The Chinese Communist Party of China encroaches on Hong Kong’s autonomy, including by interfering in elections and pushing controversial legislation that endangers foreign nationals residing in Hong Kong. In the past week, we’ve seen the people of Hong Kong protesting and marching in the streets to fight back against the Communist Party’s tyranny. If the Hong Kong government passes this dangerous extradition bill at the behest of Xi Jinping, the U.S. should reevaluate our policy toward Hong Kong.”

“Hong Kongers should be able to determine their future, but the implications of the extradition bill currently under consideration raise fears that their rights will be undermined. With Chinese influence and coercion on the rise in Hong Kong, we should be supporting the rights and freedoms of people there and around the world to govern themselves,” said Markey.

Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.

The government first proposed legal amendments in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, most notably China and Taiwan. The plan would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight. Democrats, lawyers, journalistsforeign politicians and businesses raising concerns over the risk of residents being tried in the mainland, where there are few human rights protections.

After hundreds of thousands of people marched in Hong Kong last Sunday against the extradition bill, Cruz tweeted that the US must reevaluate the policy towards the city if the extradition bill passes.

“We can no longer allow the [Chinese Communist] Party to exploit HK’s special treatment,” he said.

Morgan Ortagus, the spokesperson for the Department of State, said on Monday that the bill could harm regional business interests and expose US citizens residing in, or visiting, Hong Kong to China’s capricious legal system.

“The United States shares the concern of many in Hong Kong that the lack of the procedural protections in the proposed amendments could undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and negatively impact the territory’s long-standing protections of human rights, fundamental freedoms and democratic values as enshrined in the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” she said.

“The continued erosion of the One Country Two Systems framework puts at risk Hong Kong’s long-established special status in international affairs.”

Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.

The Legislative Council President Andrew Leung cancelled a scheduled full council meeting on Thursday, a day after a second reading of the extradition bill was postponed owing to the protests outside which turned violent as police unleashed tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray. Friday’s business at the legislature is also cancelled.

The Civil Human Rights Front has organised further protests this Sunday and Monday, after its “million-strong” march last Sunday.

Hong Kong’s psychedelic disco rock superstars Shumking Mansion will play this year’s Hong Kong Free Press 2019 fundraising party at the Hive Spring in Wong Chuk Hang. Tickets are available now for a minimum donation of just HK$50 in advance (free for HKFP monthly donors).


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.