China furious after Trump signs bills to support human rights in HK
Beijing summons US envoy to China, calls move 'a serious violation of international law'
BEIJING: China reacted furiously yesterday to US President Donald Trump's signing of two Bills aimed at supporting human rights in Hong Kong, summoning the American ambassador to protest and warning the move would undermine cooperation with Washington.
Mr Trump's approval of the Bills was not unexpected.
Neither was the reaction from Beijing, given China's adamant rejections of any commentary on what it considers an internal issue.
Nevertheless, the clash comes at a sensitive time and could upset already thorny trade negotiations between the two nations.
Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Le Yucheng told US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad that the move constituted a "serious interference in China's internal affairs and a serious violation of international law", a Foreign Ministry statement said.
Mr Le urged the US not to implement the Bills to prevent greater damage to US-China relations, the ministry said.
In a statement about the meeting, the US Embassy in Beijing said "the Chinese Communist Party must honour its promises to the Hong Kong people."
The US "believes that Hong Kong's autonomy, its adherence to the rule of law and its commitment to protecting civil liberties are key to preserving its special status under US law".
The US laws, which passed both chambers of Congress almost unanimously, mandate sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses in Hong Kong, require an annual review of Hong Kong's favourable trade status and prohibit the export to Hong Kong police of certain nonlethal munitions.
"I signed these Bills out of respect for President Xi, China and the people of Hong Kong," Mr Trump said in a statement.
"They are being enacted in the hope that leaders and representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long-term peace and prosperity for all."
Since the Hong Kong protests began in June, Beijing has responded to expressions of support for the demonstrators from the US and other countries by accusing them of orchestrating the unrest to contain China's development.
The central government has blamed foreign "black hands" bent on destroying the city.
Mr C. Y. Leung, a former chief executive of Hong Kong, said at a talk at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong that he doubts the US or supporters of the Bills "ever had the interest of Hong Kong in mind".
He also suggested that Hong Kong was being used as a "proxy" for China and that the legislation was a way to hit back at Beijing.
While China has repeatedly threatened unspecified "countermeasures", it is unclear exactly how it will respond.
Speaking on Fox News, Mr Trump called the protests a "complicating factor" in trade negotiations with Beijing.
Meanwhile, protesters in Hong Kong responded by staging a"Thanksgiving" rally last night, with thousands of people, some draped in US flags, gathering in the heart of the city.
"The rationale for us having this rally is to show our gratitude and thank the US Congress and also President Trump for passing the bill," said 23-year-old Sunny Cheung, a member of the student group that lobbied for the legislation. - AP