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US bill on Hong Kong called 'not serious'

By KONG WENZHENG in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-10-21 23:39

US politicians who passed Hong Kong-related bills in Congress do not understand the situation in the city, an expert in China-US relations and former longtime Hong Kong resident said, calling it a move to "cover up domestic issues" in the United States.

"I do not think they really know what is going on in Hong Kong," Fred Teng, president of the New York-based America China Public Affairs Institute, told China Daily.

The US House of Representatives passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 on Tuesday, a move condemned by the Chinese side. The measure, one of four passed by voice vote in Congress, would require the secretary of state to certify annually that Hong Kong had remained autonomous in order for it to keep receiving the special treatment that has allowed it to be a major financial center.

A spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of China's State Council described the bill as a gross intervention in China's internal affairs and a blatant backing for the Hong Kong opposition and violent radicals, according to Xinhua.

"This is not a serious bill," Teng said, describing it as a "kind of bill a city council or state assembly passes — not the US Congress".

Teng also criticized US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who visited Hong Kong recently and has been an advocate of the protests, saying his action is "just creating drama".

The Hong Kong bills are moves that "criticize other countries to cover up the old shortcomings of domestic issues", Teng said, referring to the mounting US national debt, crumbling infrastructure and significant gaps between rich and poor.

"Criticizing other people may make some people feel good, but it really does not solve the problem of the US domestically," he added.

Teng, who has traveled to Hong Kong more than 10 times this year, called for stability and safety in the city, which he said is "a basis for democracy or freedom".

"Just because people express their voices, and the government does not (respond) immediately, does not mean that it's an excuse to create violence in the city," said Teng, who described that violence as the biggest concern for Hong Kong right now.

The demonstrations that started in June originally targeted an extradition amendment, but they continued after the bill was withdrawn in early September.

Carrie Lam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, noted last month that the protesters' discontent extends beyond the extradition bill to various deep-rooted problems.

Hong Kong always has demonstrations; they are allowed and are normal for the city, Teng said, but the violence is upsetting people, and "no action the Hong Kong government has done can justify" the violent actions taken by demonstrators, namely their activities in government and public facilities and their use of certain tools and weapons against the police.

"Such actions will not be tolerated in any country or any city," he said.

Teng paid tribute to the Hong Kong police while receiving an award on Thursday from the Tri-State Law Enforcement Foundation Inc, a nonprofit organization that works closely with law enforcement officials in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

While receiving the award, Teng told the audience that the Hong Kong police have for decades been dedicated to maintaining law and order in the city and making considerable contributions that ought not to go unnoticed.

He told China Daily that the police are "absolutely professional" and "very restrained" while being "outnumbered" by the demonstrators and not given enough authority to carry out their jobs.

He reiterated that the demonstrators "are not trying to create a better Hong Kong, nor are they trying to improve Hong Kong," echoing the point made by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday during an interview when he said the demonstrators are "intended to humiliate and bring down the government".

"I think some of them are anarchists" intending to "tear down the government", said Teng, who was formerly the chairman of both the Hong Kong Association of New York and the National US Hong Kong Business Association. "But they have nothing that can be in place to make Hong Kong better."

During an annual policy speech on Wednesday, Lam warned of economic challenges facing Hong Kong and said the economy entered a recession in the third quarter, which was also reported by Bloomberg.

The International Monetary Fund last week lowered its growth forecast for the city, projecting a 0.3 percent expansion in 2019, a sharp decrease from the 2.7 percent it had in April.

Recognizing the economic slowdown, Teng said he was still optimistic about Hong Kong, as it is "very resilient" and will continue to get support from the Chinese mainland, which has supported Hong Kong in fields such as tourism and investments.

"Since 1997, China has abided by the 'one country, two systems' all the way," he said, stressing that the central government wants the system to work and has always allowed Hong Kong regional government officials to make their own decisions.

"They have not interfered in this matter. They have not interfered in all previous matters," said Teng. "They let Hong Kong be Hong Kong."

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