U.S. holds Hong Kong government responsible for eroding rule of law, may issue business alerts related to Hong Kong

The State Department said Tuesday (July 13) that the United States will continue to hold the Hong Kong government accountable for eroding the rule of law in Hong Kong, while Reuters quoted sources as saying that the United States is likely to issue a business alert for Hong Kong this week, just as it did for Xinjiang.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said at a regular press conference on Tuesday that risks to the rule of law, which used to be confined to mainland China, are increasingly becoming a concern for Hong Kong.

“We know that a healthy business environment depends on the rule of law, but the Hong Kong version of the national security law continues to undermine (the rule of law in Hong Kong),” Price said.

Price made the remarks in response to a question about the day the Biden administration updated its business alert for Xinjiang to warn U.S. companies and individuals of the risks involved in the border.

The Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, Trade Representative, and Labor jointly issued an updated Business Alert Tuesday (July 13) alerting U.S. businesses and individuals to the reputational, economic and legal risks of having supply chain dealings with entities involved in forced labor and other abuses in China’s Xinjiang region.

In this updated Business Alert, the U.S. government has determined that the Chinese government has committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uighur and other minorities in Xinjiang, where the U.S. government first issued a Business Alert a year ago when Washington identified the government as committing serious human rights violations and forced labor.

At the State Department’s regular press conference on Tuesday, Price was asked whether the U.S. government would issue a Hong Kong-related business alert similar to the Xinjiang-related alert on Hong Kong. Reuters quoted sources as saying that the Biden administration could issue a similar Hong Kong-related business alert as soon as this Friday (July 16) in response to the worsening situation in Hong Kong.

Price responded that the United States will continue to make Chinese officials who commit human rights abuses, including forced labor, “pay the price and face sanctions,” but he did not mention any specific new measures.

Price said, “As far as Hong Kong is concerned, we don’t have anything to announce at this point in terms of future policy moves. He added, “We will continue to call for international attention and hold the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities accountable for the erosion of the rule of law in Hong Kong.”

In response to Price’s remarks at the regular press conference, a spokesman for the Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong issued a statement Wednesday (July 14) “expressing strong dissatisfaction and resolute opposition.”

According to a report by Chinese official media Xinhua from Hong Kong, the OCMFA spokesman accused the U.S. side of “reversing black and white, not distinguishing right from wrong, smearing Hong Kong’s national security laws and the business environment in Hong Kong, and attempting to mislead U.S. enterprises in Hong Kong.” The spokesman also accused the U.S. side of not wanting to see Hong Kong get better, not wanting it to be ruled, and of “playing the Hong Kong card to deter China’s development.

In response to a joint update on Tuesday by six U.S. ministries and commissions on border-related business alerts, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a regular press conference in Beijing on Wednesday (July 14) that the successive U.S. reports on border-related issues were “trite lies”. Zhao also said that no matter how much effort the U.S. puts into fabricating “lies about the border”, “the sinister attempt to use the border to control China will only fail”.

China’s State Council Information Office also released a white paper on Wednesday (July 14) entitled “Guaranteeing Equal Rights for All Ethnic Groups in Xinjiang. The 13,000-word white paper declares that “Xinjiang is in the best development period in its history.