China is responding to punitive US trade sanctions with some fiery measures of its own. Photo: Twitter

China will soon pass a law to strike back against the countries that have imposed sanctions on Chinese state organs, enterprises, organizations and functionaries, including those with links to the People’s Liberation Army.

New draft legislation, dubbed the “Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law,” was submitted to the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee for a second reading on Monday. It is expected that the draft will be approved by the top legislative body in China on Thursday.

The details of the draft have not been made public. However, according to a Xinhua report, the Chinese government will launch multiple corresponding counter-measures against entities and individuals in relevant countries, meaning the United States, from the beginning of 2021.

During the “two sessions” in early March, some members of the NPC and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) suggested it was necessary for China to formulate a specific law to counter foreign sanctions.

Members of the NPC Standing Committee reviewed the draft for the first time in a meeting in late April and broadly agreed to formulate the law to counter foreign sanctions. They also gave some advice and suggestions on improving the draft, Xinhua reported.

“For some time, out of political manipulation needs and ideological bias, some Western countries have used Xinjiang and Hong Kong-related issues as part of their pretexts to spread rumors on and smear, contain and suppress China,” according to the spokesperson office of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.

“In particular, the countries, in violation of international law and the basic norms governing international relations, have imposed so-called sanctions on relevant Chinese state organs, organizations and functionaries in accordance with their domestic laws, grossly interfering in China’s internal affairs,” added the spokesperson.

The office said China would use the new law to safeguard national sovereignty, dignity and core interests and oppose Western hegemonism and power politics.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam was one of those targeted by sanctions. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong’s special status

Last July, then US President Donald Trump issued an executive order to end Hong Kong’s special status with the US and signed into law a bill to impose sanctions on a dozen Hong Kong and Chinese officials including Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

It was reported that some banks had canceled Lam’s accounts, forcing the Hong Kong leader to keep her money in cash at home. Lam said it was a tad inconvenient using only cash, but it was an honor for her to be able to safeguard national security.

Last December, the Trump administration sanctioned 14 vice-chairmen of the NPC over their role in Beijing tightening its grip on Hong Kong and in setting policies for Xinjiang. Beijing later imposed sanctions of its own, targeting some US officials and congressmen.

Ahead of a meeting between the US and China’s top officials in Alaska in March, the Biden administration announced it would sanction more Chinese officials. In the same month, Guo Shuqing, Chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said all financial institutions in Hong Kong would not implement the US sanctions but had to enforce Chinese laws and regulations. 

Charles Ho Tsu-kwok, a Hong Kong businessman and one of the 18 members of the CPPCC Standing Committee, said in an interview with Hong Kong’s Commercial Radio on Monday that Chief Executive Lam should be blamed for lacking knowledge, experience and vision when handling the anti-extradition saga in 2019.

Citing the comment made by the then Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom Liu Xiaoming in June 2019, Ho said it was Lam’s idea, instead of Beijing’s order, to launch the extradition law legislation. Ho said he had warned Lam that such a move would lead to foreign sanctions, but she refused to listen to his advice.

Ho said although Lam was also sanctioned by the US, her personal loss was insignificant when compared to that of the business sector, which lost a lot of trade benefits after the US revoked Hong Kong’s special status last year.

Lam said people enjoyed the right to comment on the government and its governance as Hong Kong was a place with freedom of speech. She said she and her team would continue to listen to people’s advice in a humble manner and try their best to finish the tasks within the last year of her current term.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, right, walks past Chinese President Xi Jinping after delivering his speech during the opening session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on May 22, 2020. Photo: AFP / Leo Ramirez

Long-arm jurisdiction

During the “two sessions” in March, the NPC Standing Committee said its main tasks in the coming year included enriching the legal toolkit with a focus on moves against sanctions and interference and countering long-arm jurisdiction to cope with challenges and risks.

Deng Yuwen, a US-based Chinese scholar and a researcher at the China Strategic Analysis Center, told RTHK that it seemed to be lacking legitimacy when the Chinese government counteracted foreign sanctions with diplomatic means in the past.

Deng said the launch of the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law would increase the legitimacy of Chinese sanctions and also send a message to the West that China’s retaliation against foreign sanctions was supported by the Chinese people. However, Deng said the new law would not make much difference in real practice.

Wu Qiang, a Beijing-based independent political commentator, said the launch of the Anti-Foreign Sanctions Law was aimed at retaliating against US sanctions imposed on the 14 vice-chairmen of the NPC and to show Chinese President Xi Jinping’s fighting spirit.

Wu said after the law was passed, China would impose sanctions on foreign people, companies and governments whenever it faced foreign sanctions. He said some foreign trade and cooperation partnerships would be affected.

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