For the past year the US government have (strongly) spoken out against the influence of the Chinese Communist Party on Hong Kong, and have made into law the Human Rights and Democracy Act which allows sanctions to be imposed on officials who do not respect human rights in HK.

Contrarily, the UK government have been less enthusiastic on this issue as only a few warnings/voices of concern such as that by the Foreign Secretary have been issued. Although some MPs have suggested a similar Act (i.e. Magnitsky) in the UK, it has not been passed to date.

Given that Hong Kong was a British colony for 150 years, I find it surprising that the British government have done less than the US government in terms of monitoring/assessing HK's situation. Or to turn it the other way round, why have the US government done more despite that historically the US-HK relationship was much weaker than the British-HK relationship?

1 Answer 1


The US

Right now, it has a policy, under Trump, of confrontation with China. Some of it is for good principled reasons, but a lot of it seems driven by internal politics.

So it is not wrong to say that they are right to support HK, but assuming they are doing it out of innate goodness is wishful thinking.


Has a long-established history of retaliation and aggressive pushback against any perceived criticism of its "internal" political behavior. "Internal" is what China says is internal, so that includes Tibet, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Uighurs, Covid...

The UK

Is a "small" country with limited economic power and bigger fish to fry right now, such as economic problems and Covid. Dealing with Covid also includes sourcing medical gear from... China.

As such, it would be foolhardy to pick a fight that it can't win.

Now, the UK could coordinate with the US, but, Trump being Trump, who knows what to expect from the US. After Canada, for whom the same HK question was asked, arrested Huawei's CEO's daughter, on behalf of a US arrest warrant, Trump quickly tweeted that it could all be fixed with a deal and left Canada to deal with the China fallout.

That fallout included China arresting 2 Canadians on trumped up charges (without access to lawyers, 500+ days of solitary confinement and counting), blocking some imports from Canada and bumping up one Canadian drug smuggler's prison sentence to a death sentence for good measure.

If only the UK was part of a larger block of nations.

  • I was going to point out that you forgot a big fish the UK is trying to fry but then I read to the end.
    – Jan
    May 25, 2020 at 11:01

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