Banks Penalized for Doing Business with Chinese Officials

According to Reuters, on July 1, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Wednesday that would penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s draconian new national security law imposed on the former British colony of Hong Kong.

China responded by saying the United States should stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and warned that it would “resolutely and forcefully resist”.

In 1997, Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule under a “one country, two systems” formula.

What is a “One Country, Two Systems” Formula?

A “one country, two systems”formula protects its freedoms, including an independent legal system, and wide-ranging autonomy. However, China recently  introduced sweeping national security legislation for the city, condemned by the United States, Britain and other Western countries.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reprimanded HSBC (HSBA.L) and other banks on Wednesday for supporting the new law, saying the rights of Hong Kong should not be sacrificed for bankers’ bonuses.

Senior British and U.S. politicians criticized HSBC and Standard Chartered (STAN.L) last month after the banks backed the new law.’

What Does the New Law Punish?

The new law punishes crimes of:

  • secession;
  • subversion;
  • terrorism; and
  • collusion with foreign forces.

What is the Punishment for Violating?

This crime is punishable by life in prison.  

What is the Effect of the New Law?

This law will create mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allow extradition to the mainland for trial.

The House measure passed unanimously, reflecting concern in Washington over the erosion the autonomy that allowed Hong Kong to thrive as China’s freest city and an international financial center.

The U.S. Senate passed similar legislation last week, but under congressional rules the bill must return to the Senate and be passed there before being sent to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign into law or veto.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made an unusual appearance at a committee hearing on the situation in Hong Kong to say the security law marked the death of the “one country, two systems” principle.

“The law is a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the people of Hong Kong, intended to destroy the freedoms they were promised,” she told the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said in Beijing on Thursday the United States “must stop advancing the bill, let alone sign it or implement” it.

“Otherwise China will resolutely and forcefully resist,” he said.

According to Reuters, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the security law was an affront to all nations and Washington would continue to implement Trump’s directive to end the territory’s special status.

The United States has already begun:

  • eliminating Hong Kong’s special status;
  • halting defense exports; and
  • restricting the territory’s access to high-technology products.

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