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.