【明報專訊】THE US Senate has adopted the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act by unanimous vote. In the thick of the trade disputes between China and the US, some people harbour unrealistic illusions about the Act, thinking that it will be the game changer and Washington will help Hong Kong achieve democracy. The political reality is that the Act will only give the White House one more bargaining chip to demand ransom from China. It will do Hong Kong all kinds of harm but no good. From a foreign perspective, the Act will increase uncertainty faced by foreign capital investing in Hong Kong and will hurt Hong Kong's economic interests. From a local perspective, the Act marks Hong Kong's becoming a battleground between China and the US. No one can be spared from the havoc when two powers are locked in bitter rivalry. Hong Kong will stand to lose. It will only be harder for Hong Kong to fight for democracy, safeguard freedom and promote better livelihoods for the people.
The anti-amendment storm continues, accompanied by an exponential increase in violence. Some subtle changes in global opinion have also happened. Apart from criticising the police's law enforcement, observers are also more critical of the violent vandalism than before.
Following in the footsteps of the House of Representatives, the US Senate adopted its version of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act and the Protect Hong Kong Act on Tuesday. The two versions are largely similar. Both have two major components. First, the State Department is required to submit an annual report to Congress to review Hong Kong's situation in terms of human rights and autonomy. That will be the basis for the decision about whether to continue to view Hong Kong as a separate customs territory in accordance with the 1992 United States-Hong Kong Policy Act, thus giving Hong Kong a different treatment from mainland China in economic and trading issues. Second, the Act will impose sanctions on Hong Kong and mainland officials who have violated human rights. As for the Protect Hong Kong Act, it is about the prohibition against selling equipment such as tear gas canisters to the Hong Kong police force.
The Senate and House of Representatives are to negotiate on a unified version of the Act and send it to President Trump, whose signature will put the Act in effect. Beijing's reactions have been very strong indeed. In Hong Kong, some people harbour unrealistic illusions about the US and the Act, thinking that the US is the "saviour of democracy" and that Hong Kong's prosperity and stability "relies on" the US. They also think that with the Act as a "trump card", Beijing will be "brought to its knees". But if we do away with imagination and return to reality, we will see that the adoption of the Act will only mark Hong Kong's becoming a battleground between China and the US. No battleground can be safe from harm. The result will invariably be destruction. If the intense rivalry between China and the US drags on, Hong Kong will be the loser. From democracy, freedom, prosperity to stability, all that Hong Kong people cherish will become elusive.
To the White House, the Act will arm it with yet another tool to put pressure on China. But the aim is not to promote freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, but to promote its self-interest. When Washington plays the "Hong Kong card" for effect, it will not be helpful to Hong Kong's freedom and democracy. Quite the contrary, it will only make Beijing even warier and further tighten its policies towards Hong Kong.
unanimous : if a decision or an opinion is unanimous, it is agreed or shared by everyone in a group
in the thick of sth : involved in the busiest or most active part of sth
harbour : to keep feelings or thoughts, especially negative ones, in your mind for a long time