Trump Signs Hong Kong Bill Backing Protesters, Angering China More (Bloomberg) — Donald Trump signed legislation expressing U.S. support for Hong Kong protesters, prompting China to threaten retaliation just as the two nations get close to signing a phase one trade deal.
China summoned U.S. Ambassador Terry Branstad, with Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng telling him to stop meddling in Hong Kong affairs. He warned that such actions would strain ties and risk affecting “cooperation in important areas,” according to a foreign ministry statement, which didn’t give more details. Earlier, the foreign ministry reiterated threats of retaliation with no specifics.
Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of state-run Global Times, said later Thursday in a tweet that China was considering putting the drafters of the law on a no-entry list.
The bill requires annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trade status under American law, as well as sanctions against any officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses or undermining the city’s autonomy. A second Hong Kong measure also bans the export of crowd-control items such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the city’s police.
While signing the bills, Trump signaled that he didn’t want the broader relationship with China to veer off track. He expressed concerns with unspecified portions of the new law, saying they risked interfering with his constitutional authority to carry out American foreign policy.
“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” the president said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Asian stocks were mixed and U.S. futures slid after Trump signed the bill, while the yen nudged higher and the yuan lower. Hong Kong shares were among the worst performers, though declines were still modest at the open.
Investors are looking for any sign that measure will prevent the world’s biggest economies from reaching a deal that could deescalate a trade war that’s dragged on for 20 months. Trump on Tuesday said the two sides were in the “final throes” of a deal that would start to unwind tariffs on about $500 billion in products traded between them.
Trump would like the agreement finished in order to ease economic uncertainty for his re-election campaign in 2020, and he has floated the possibility of signing the deal in a farm state as an acknowledgment of the constituency that’s borne the brunt of retaliatory Chinese tariffs. China is also looking to avoid further damage to an economy growing at the slowest pace in decades.
‘Xi Wants a Deal’
China is irked that the bill will bolster Hong Kong protesters who have become increasingly violent in their bid to secure demands including an independent inquiry into police abuses and meaningful elections, but it probably won’t affect trade talks much, said David Zweig, an emeritus professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and director of Transnational China […]