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Hong Kong teeters on edge of US sanctions

Hong Kong teeters on edge of US sanctions

Hongkonger Hendrick Lui believes the United States should slap sanctions on those responsible for cracking down on recent mass protests against controversial legislation that aims to allow for criminal suspects to be extradited and tried in mainland China.

Lui was among hundreds of mostly young demonstrators involved in a June 21 sit-in at the city’s Legislative Council (Legco) building and nearby roads, where some held banners in support of a bill recently tabled by senior American lawmakers to sanction mainland and city officials involved in rights abuses.

The bipartisan legislation, known as the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, was introduced on June 13 by hawkish Republican senator Marco Rubio and Democratic congressman Jim McGovern in the wake of recent violent clashes between protestors and security forces in Hong Kong.

If passed, the bill would impose sanctions and travel restrictions against individuals in China and Hong Kong found to be involved in human rights violations, and require the US president to certify annually that Hong Kong is “sufficiently autonomous” to continue receiving US trade privileges not afforded to mainland China.

If those privileges are withdrawn, analysts agree it would deal a harsh economic blow to a city that has long served as a hub for conducting business, trade and finance with greater China.

“I think [the US] should approve this bill to monitor and report on human rights in Hong Kong and sanction those people, especially those in the Communist Party who are against human rights,” said Lui, 36, who earlier led a march to the city’s US Consulate General to hand over a petition in support of the law.

Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, has effectively shelved the controversial rendition legislation, but protestors have not relented in their demands for her resignation and a formal withdrawal of the extradition bill.

They are also calling for an independent and thorough investigation into alleged police misconduct against protestors that resulted in some of the worst scenes of street violence seen since the restoration of Chinese rule two decades ago.

Police have since taken a softer tack and have not attempted to disperse forcefully recent gatherings and demonstrations. But that may not be enough to stop the momentum building in Washington to penalize alleged rights violators.