With the introduction of the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” by Republican senators Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton in November 2016, U.S.-China relations appear to be taking a turn for the worse. The announcement came following student activist Joshua Wong’s visit to Washington, during which Senators Rubio and Cotton reaffirmed their commitment to preserving autonomy and political freedom in Hong Kong. Rubio remarked:
“This [Beijing’s infringement on Hong Kong’s democratic freedom] was on stark display over the last year with the abduction of the Hong Kong booksellers, the required loyalty oaths in the lead-up to the September LegCo elections, and last week with Beijing’s unprecedented intervention in Hong Kong’s legal system to block two democratically elected politicians from assuming office…It is critical in the days ahead that the democratic aspirations of the people of Hong Kong be a vital U.S. interest and foreign policy priority.”
The lofty ambitions of this bill, among them to enforce punitive measures towards Hong Kong or mainland Chinese officials who suppress basic freedoms in Hong Kong (especially those involved in the infamous case of the missing booksellers), are sure to upset the Chinese government and aggravate tense relations between the U.S. and China.
Perhaps President-elect Trump’s controversial phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai has set a precedent for the U.S. to renege on its “One-China Policy”. Now that Republicans have taken control over Congress, a bill with the potential to further upend U.S.-China relations could be enacted.