Our hopes for stability in Hong Kong

Published July 2, 2020, 4:55 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Hong Kong has a special place in Philippine international relations. It is a vital trading partner, importing up  to $10 billion goods  from the Philippines, making it  the fourth among our top  export markets. With Hong Kong’s  imports,  China is today the  Philippines’  No. 1 export market.

Hong Kong  also  hosts  some 230,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). With hundreds of thousands of OFWs  now returning from the Middle East as a result  of the ongoing coronavirus  pandemic, on  top of the domestic  job  losses the country is now suffering,  Hong  Kong remains  a steady  base of our nation’s OFW program.

In recent months, however, Hong Kong  has been  rocked by protests over  China’s enactment of a National  Security Law which,  some quarters  fear, threatens   the  principle of “One  Country,  Two Systems” under which  Hong Kong has continued to   maintain  its distinct political, socioeconomic, and legal arrangements  under a unified China for at least 50 years.

Massive  rallies were held protesting  an extradition law amendment which, it  was feared, would impact on Hong Kong’s judicial autonomy.  More recently, China legislated a National Security  Law  in response to what it deemed  to be divisive actions from radicals with some signs of agitation for secession.

The “One Country, Two Systems” principle,  under which Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 after 156 years as a British colony,   has been the subject of much debate.  But China stresses that the order of the two principles – “One Country” and “Two Systems” — clearly puts emphasis on the unity of the country.

The United States has long been known for its support  for  human rights and democracy movements, but  in  the case of Hong Kong, its support for the protests has  been subdued.  President Trump merely said  the US response  would “affect the full range of agreements with Hong Kong, including its special trade status.”

 The US sanctions have been minimal,  consisting  of bans on individuals travelling to the US  and export restrictions  on “certain types of civilian-military dual-use  technoiogies.” China  has responded  to the US action  with equally  restrained  measures, banning US officials directly involved in putting  pressure on Hong  Kong.

Hong Kong has remained  a great center of international  business and finance. And it remains vital to   the Philippines  as major importer of our goods and  host  to hundred of OFWs. We thus hope for its continued harmony and stability in the face of its ongoing difficulties.