How the U.S. can support self-rule in Hong Kong without starting a war

The 1992 United States-Hong Kong Policy Act obligates the United States to “promote Hong Kong’s prosperity, autonomy, and way of life.” Hong Kong’s past autonomy enables it to enjoy special economic treatment from the United States.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland introduced a bill in June, titled “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act,” requiring “the U.S. Secretary of State to issue an annual certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy to justify special treatment under the U.S. Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.” It also requires the U.S. president to “identify persons responsible for the abduction of several booksellers and other individuals from Hong Kong and subject them to U.S. sanctions.” Congress needs to pass this bill and send it to President Trump for signature.

Another way to intervene is to use the Global Magnitsky Act, which allows the United States to “impose visa bans and targeted sanctions on individuals anywhere in the world responsible for committing human rights violations or acts of significant corruption.” If the Trump administration signals it will use the Global Magnitsky Act to freeze assets and prevent travel of anyone who committed human rights violations in Hong Kong, be it government officials, police, and military officers, they may think twice before the next violent crackdown because many of them have foreign bank accounts and families living abroad.