Meng Wanzhou receives flowers after she arrived in Shenzhen after her release. Photo: AFP / CCTV screengrab

China’s government has launched new rounds of anti-US criticism in recent days while urging Washington to stop “suppressing” China over Hong Kong-related issues.

Beijing slammed the US for intervening in Hong Kong matters last Friday after it was confirmed that Huawei Technologies’ chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, who had been detained on fraud charges in Canada since December 2018, would be freed.

On Tuesday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised its travel health advice to Hong Kong to level 2, citing a “moderate level” of coronavirus.

It said unvaccinated travelers with a higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19 should avoid non-essential travel to Hong Kong. The reason for the decision is unclear as there hasn’t been a locally transmitted infection in Hong Kong since mid-August and travelers to the city are required to undergo two to three weeks of quarantine.

Bilateral spats had cooled after the National People’s Congress’ (NPC) standing committee on August 20 unexpectedly skipped a motion that would have imposed the Anti-Foreign Sanction Law in Hong Kong. Pro-Beijing politicians and newspapers had been drumming up support for the legislation for months but Beijing did not say why it was postponed.

Political commentators said Beijing could have changed its mind after foreign banks in Hong Kong complained that it was difficult, if not impossible, for them to comply with both the US sanction requirements and China’s anti-sanction law.

Some others said the US had begun talks with China in late August over Afghanistan issues, while the easing of tensions between the powers gave Beijing space to delay the launch of the anti-sanctions law in Hong Kong.

On September 10, US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping held a 90-minute phone call, which was described as “frank and familiar” by media on both sides, although the leaders did not reach any substantial agreement.

On September 24, Meng was allowed to return to China from Canada after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors to end the bank fraud case against her. Two Canadians, businessman Michael Spavor and ex-diplomat Michael Kovrig, were also freed from China.

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Xi had brought up Meng’s case during the phone call with Biden, who also pressed for the release of the two Canadians. However, Psaki said Meng’s release was not a prisoner swap.

Presidents Xi Jinping and Joe Biden. Relations eased for a while after they talked. Photos: AFP / Nicolas Asfouri and Nicholas Kamm

After Meng’s release was confirmed last Friday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the same day released what it called a fact sheet on US interference in Hong Kong affairs, accusing the US of instigating social unrest in Hong Kong since 2019.

The fact sheet cited 102 examples with specific times and participants, including a dozen meetings between Hong Kong and US politicians, US sanctions on Hong Kong and Chinese officials, US enactments of Hong Kong-related acts and an advisory released on July 16 about the risks and considerations for businesses operating in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s chief secretary John Lee said the international community and Hong Kong residents could see from the fact sheet that the US had been plotting to attack China and interfere in Hong Kong affairs to serve its own political interests.

On Monday, the Hong Kong government published the “Report on Hong Kong’s Business Environment: A Place with Unique Advantages and Unlimited Opportunities,” criticizing the US for supporting so-called black-clad violence anti-extradition protests in Hong Kong between mid-2019 and early 2020.

“Over the past two years, the US has attempted to undermine Hong Kong’s stability and restrain the development of our country and Hong Kong with a variety of destructive and disruptive acts. While these acts may cause some short-term disturbance to local business sentiment, Hong Kong’s wide ranging institutional strengths remain intact,” the report said.

“On the contrary, the unreasonable acts of some western countries, including the US, towards our country and Hong Kong will only harm or even sacrifice the interests of their own enterprises and investors in the end.

“It would be self-deceptive for the US administration to think that its overall interests would not be affected by unilaterally imposing various measures to restrict normal business activities or exchanges of people and disregarding the huge interests of the US companies and investors in the Hong Kong and the mainland markets.”

The Hong Kong government also warned the US that any move by foreign countries to attack the city’s financial system, which is closely integrated with the global economic and financial systems and is serving irreplaceable functions, would send shock waves across the global financial markets including in the US.

A flag-raising ceremony for the 24th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on July 1, 2021 Photo: HK govt

It said the so-called sanctions or any other unilateral action by western countries would backfire, harming their own enterprises and people.

“Since the implementation of the National Security Law, Hong Kong’s financial market has remained stable, and the Linked Exchange Rate System and various segments of the financial market have been functioning well,” Financial Secretary Paul Chan said Monday.

“While some foreign chambers of commerce expressed concerns when the National Security Law was first implemented, they remain generally confident about Hong Kong’s business environment after in-depth explanation by the HKSAR Government and their observations on the actual situation.”

The Liaison Office of the central government in Hong Kong said it welcomed the report, which it said showed that the National Security Law had increased foreign companies’ investment confidence in Hong Kong and helped ensure the city’s stability and prosperity.

The Liaison Office said the report used detailed data and strong arguments to prove the vitality of the Hong Kong economy and fight the malicious smears and slander by a few countries. It also said Hong Kong would benefit from China’s 14th Five-Year Plan and new developments in Zhuhai’s Hengqin and Shenzhen’s Qianhai.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Tuesday that the report had responded to concerns raised by the international community on Hong Kong’s business environment.

Hua said the central government believed that Hong Kong’s unique advantages would be further demonstrated while the city’s development would continue to gather pace. She said the “Pearl of the Orient” would shine even more dazzlingly.

A banner supporting the National Security Law is seen in a pro-Beijing rural committee building in Hong Kong. Photo: Jeff Lau / EYEPRESS

On July 16, the US State Department issued an advisory warning American firms about rising risks when operating under the National Security Law, which was implemented on June 30 last year.

Businesses in Hong Kong are subject to the territory’s laws, including the National Security Law, and face risks associated with electronic surveillance without warrants and the surrender of corporate and customer data to authorities, according to the advisory. Under the law, foreign nationals including one US citizen have been arrested, it noted.

The Biden administration has not yet commented on Beijing’s fact sheet or the business environment report.

On Tuesday, the CDC raised its travel health advice for Hong Kong from level 1 to level 2. The CDC’s highest travel health notice is Level 4. Media reports said the decision was strange as Hong Kong had seen fewer than 10 cases a day since late August and was yet to experience an outbreak of the Delta variant.

Meanwhile, the CDC also increased its travel advice for Singapore by one notch to Level 3, citing a “high level” of Covid-19. Last Friday, the US reported more than 180,000 new Covid cases and saw more than 2,700 deaths from the virus. 

Read: Biden warns US businesses of rising risks in HK

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