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China wants a meaningless veto from President Trump on Hong Kong bill

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Congress is sending President Trump a bill and China is furious about it. The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act is designed to change trade liberties if a certain level of autonomy is not maintained in Hong Kong, plus threatens to issue sanctions against people who participate in human rights abuses.

“We urge the U.S. to grasp the situation, stop its wrongdoing before it’s too late, prevent this act from becoming law (and) immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing.

This is a pointless request. The bipartisan bill is so heavily supported, there is nothing President Trump can do other than sign it. Sure, he could post a symbolic veto, but Congress would easily overturn the veto. At this point, the bill has a 100% chance of becoming law.

China is already threatening retaliation of some sort over this. What that means is unclear, but considering where we stand in the trade war, this could mean the “Phase One” agreement is in jeopardy before it gets signed by the two largest countries in the world. While China maintains they keep issues with the United States compartmentalized, it’s hard to believe they will move forward on the trade deal if the President signs the bill, which he almost certainly will.

Of course, it could also work in reverse. The President has the ability to selectively enforce the law as leverage in negotiations over the trade deal. Its future really comes down to how badly China is hurting from the tariffs. No matter how much they hate this bill, they aren’t going to jeopardize their economic future if the heat is turned up higher than they’re currently willing to admit.

This bill is an inconvenience to the trade deal, but it’s important that Hong Kong is protected. It’s the economic heart of the east. If it’s turned into a wholly controlled Chinese jurisdiction, economic freedoms worldwide will be threatened.

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