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Editorial : HK Human Rights and Democracy Act

【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.

明報社評2019.11.21:港成中美角力戰場 惡鬥之下豈有完卵

美國參議院一致通過《香港人權與民主法案》(下稱《法案》)。中美角力正酣,部分人對《法案》有不切實際幻想,以為這是所謂的「game changer」,想像華府會助香港實現民主。回歸政治現實,《法案》不過是讓白宮有多一張牌向華索價,對香港卻是有害無益。對外方面,《法案》增加了外資在香港面對的不確定因素,有損香港經濟利益;對內方面,《法案》標誌香港成為中美角力戰場,兩強惡鬥之下豈有完卵,香港必是輸家,爭民主、護自由、促民生之路只會更艱難。

反修例風暴持續,暴力破壞變本加厲,國際輿論亦出現了微妙變化,在批評警方執法之餘,亦對嚴重暴力破壞行為有更多批判。

繼眾議院之後,美國參議院周二也通過了《香港人權與民主法案》和《保護香港法案》。參眾兩院《法案》內容實質大同小異,核心有二:一是要求國務院每年向國會提交報告,檢視香港人權和自治狀况,考慮是否繼續根據1992年的《香港政策法》,將香港視為單獨關稅區,在經貿等方面將香港與中國大陸區別看待;二是制裁在香港違反人權的本地和內地官員。至於《保護香港法案》,則是禁止向香港警方出售催淚彈等裝備。

參眾兩院稍後將就《法案》協商統一版本,呈交總統特朗普,《法案》 一經總統簽署便將正式生效。觀乎北京反應,態度也相當強硬。在香港,部分人對美國和《法案》抱有不切實際的幻想,以為美國是「民主救星」、香港繁榮穩定「取決」於美國,有了《法案》這個「殺手鐧」,北京就會「跪低」,云云,然而由想像回歸到現實,《法案》的通過,只標誌香港正式成為中美角力戰場。世上沒有戰場可以安然無恙,最終必然是體無完膚,美中在港激烈角力曠日持久,輸的一定是香港,港人所希望的民主自由和繁榮穩定,只會變得難以企及。

對白宮來說,《法案》提供了多一項對華施壓的工具,然而施壓目的並非真的為了香港自由民主,而是為了美國自身利益。華府大打「香港牌」,不僅無助香港民主自由,反而只會幫倒忙,令北京戒心更大、進一步收緊對港政策。

■Glossary

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

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