Well, not all of us. But the Chinese are threatening to block off Hong Kong as a port of call for our Navy. In response to the recent passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, China’s government is planning to suspend any scheduled stops by our naval vessels and issue sanctions on pro-democracy groups that have been “causing trouble” by supporting the protesters in that city. And all of this is taking place in the shadow of ongoing trade negotiations between Washington and Beijing. (Associated Press)
China said Monday it will suspend U.S. Navy visits to Hong Kong and sanction several American pro-democracy organizations in retaliation for the signing into law of legislation supporting human rights in the semi-autonomous territory.
While the nature of the sanctions remained unclear, the move appeared to back up Chinese threats that the U.S. would bear the costs of the decision.
The steps are “in response to the U.S.’s unreasonable behavior,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, adding that the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “seriously interfered” in China’s internal affairs.
If you had asked me six months ago how our relationship with China might go to hell in a handbasket, I might have guessed that it would be over a trade war, technical espionage, patent infringements or their expanded military footprint in the South China Sea. But I never would have thought it was going to be over a pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Assuming they make good on this threat, it’s not likely to be too big of an imposition on our Navy. It’s not like we operate a major base there or anything. We mostly use it as a liberty call stop for our sailors and an opportunity to resupply the fleet. (My only visit to Hong Kong was as a sailor on liberty back around 1980. I’ll spare you the details of how I wound up being dragged back to the ship by the Shore Patrol.)
China’s claim that the new bill represents “serious interference” in China’s internal affairs is rather dubious. The law the President signed is primarily just a statement in support of Democracy, not any sort of direct intervention on behalf of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. The sanctions are likely more of an insult than a serious economic concern for those involved. So with that in mind, the sanctions China wants to impose on pro-democracy groups are more of a tit-for-tat maneuver than anything else.
In the end, though, there’s really not all that much we can do for the people of Hong Kong aside from gestures of goodwill. China insists that they control Hong Kong and they obviously plan to maintain that control. We all saw what happened in Tiananmen Square when it began looking like Chinese citizens were going to stand up and demand freedom and democracy. And nobody believes that the United States would seriously consider going to war with China over this.
If Carrie Lam can’t figure out a way to calm the waters and return her city to something close to the previous status quo, China’s patience is going to run out and that’s when we’ll see their military coming over the border in force. And sadly, at that point, a free Hong Kong will likely be nothing more than a dream.