After the United States and European Union publicly expressed concerns that the controversial Hong Kong extradition bill could impact the city’s status as an international financial hub, the Chinese regime increased tariffs by 4 to 10 times on U.S. and EU-made seamless steel pipes.
Commentators analyzed that this could be a retaliatory move by Beijing after the two governments’ open criticisms.
The Hong Kong government first announced plans to amend the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance in February, proposing to allow country, including mainland China, to seek extradition of criminal suspects. The bill has drawn broad opposition within Hong Kong society, with many fearing that given China’s disregard for rule of law, the proposal could allow the Chinese regime to charge with impunity, while further eroding the city’s freedoms and autonomy.
Since then, Hong Kongers has taken to the streets to call for the government to scrap the bill completely. On June 9, over one million Hong Kongers marched through the city. On June 12, police shot tear gas, rubber bullets, and bean bags to disperse protesters.
After international criticism of the police use of force, Hong Kong’s top leader Carrie Lam announced on June 15 that the bill would be suspended indefinitely.
Locals were dissatisfied with the suspension; nearly two million marched again on June 16 to call for the bill’s complete withdrawal and for Lam to step down.
After protests escalated on June 12, the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao released a statement on June 13: “This [extradition bill] is a sensitive issue, with potentially far-reaching consequences for Hong Kong and its people, for EU and foreign citizens, as well as for business confidence in Hong Kong.”
The statement also said Hong Kongers’ right to assemble and express themselves “freely and peacefully…need to be respected.”
That same day, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers reintroduced legislation that would require the United States to review whether special trading privileges currently afforded to Hong Kong should continue.
The U.S.–Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 governs the relationship after the city was reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997. The Chinese regime had promised that the city remain autonomous under the “one country, two systems” model.
Hong Kong, as an autonomous free port, would enjoy special treatment from the United States, including in areas of visas, trade, and investments.
The legislation proposes that if Hong Kong is deemed not sufficiently autonomous from mainland China, those privileges would be revoked. Analysts have predicted that such a proposal could lead to foreign investors fleeing and potentially cause a financial crisis.
The following day, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOC) announced that it would impose anti-dumping tariffs on U.S. and EU-made high pressure temperature alloy-steel seamless pipes, with rates ranging from 57.9 percent to 147.8 percent.
This means the Chinese regime has increased tariffs on U.S.-made pipes by nearly tenfold.
High pressure temperature alloy-steel seamless pipes are mainly used in boilers and steaming-water pipes installed in power stations. The China market consumed about 80 percent of global production in the past five years, according to MOC’s report.
MOC announced the anti-dumping investigation on May 9, and increased the tariffs just after the United States and E.U. spoke in support of the Hong Kong protesters. The timing made commentators believe that Beijing was retaliating for their actions.
Geng Shuang, spokesperson for China’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, said at a daily press conference on June 14: “The Beijing side has advised relevant U.S. parties to respect the basic facts, abandon arrogance and prejudice, and withdraw your attempts to interfere in Hong Kong affairs.”
Similarly, Geng had responded thusly to the EU statement: “We ask the EU to view the Hong Kong government objectively and fairly in regards to the [extradition] amendments. You should take caution in your words and behaviors, and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs in any form.”
“[Increasing tariffs] is a retaliation tactic that the Chinese regime is using to deal with the political pressures from the U.S. and EU. Meanwhile, it’s also an escalation of the trade dispute,” Tang Jingyuan, a U.S.-based China affairs commentator, told The Epoch Times on June 14.
The United States and China are in the midst of an ongoing trade dispute over tariffs and China’s unfair trade practices.
The United States, Canada, and EU currently have various anti-dumping tariffs on China-made steel products. Now that the Chinese regime is imposing high-rate duties on U.S. and EU products, “it clearly is a trade sanction,” Tang said.