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Week of May 21, 1999

Week of May 21, 1999

Next Summary

Congress Concerned Over Hong Kong’s Request for Beijing Intervention on Ruling


In reaction to an announcement by Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa that his administration would ask the National People’s Congress (NPC) to alter the Basic Law to reverse a ruling handed down by the Court of Appeals in January, members of the House and Senate sent letters to Mr. Tung on May 19, 1999 asking him to reconsider. Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY), chair of the Senate subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific affairs and Representatives John Porter (R-IL), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Tom Lantos (D-CA) have signed letters stating that such a move would damage Hong Kong’s international reputation and cripple the rule of law in the newly created Special Autonomous Region. Their sentiments echo those of some of Hong Kong’s residents, legal experts and democratic leaders who have held protests of what they describe as "the death of an independent judiciary" in Hong Kong.

This political and legal crisis revolves around the decision of the Court of Appeals to grant the right of abode to approximately 1.6 million mainland Chinese over the next ten years. Mr. Tung and his administration have issued statements that such an influx would be devastating to the economy and infrastructure of Hong Kong. Therefore, as a measure of last resort they will ask the NPC to alter the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s constitution, to restrict the criteria on the right of abode. Because the Chinese government has the right to amend the Basic Law, Mr. Tung insists that this will not damage the courts or the rule of law in Hong Kong.

Previous Summary

Trade Delegation Arrives in U.S.; Embassy Reopens


Calm returned to the diplomatic quarter in Beijing as angry protests at the American embassy prompted by the May 8th missile attack on the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade subsided. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing was open for business early this week, although the visa section was still closed.

This latest dispute between the U.S. and China may have both political and economic ramifications. After the bombing, China demanded that the U.S. carry out a full investigation of the incident. It also suspended dialogue with the U.S. on military, arms-proliferation, and human rights issues. In Chinese domestic politics, hard-liners appear to have welcomed the opportunity to steer public opinion in the direction of nationalist impulses and away from the venting of domestic social or political discontent.

In U.S.-China economic relations, government and business leaders—Chinese and American alike—are worried that the sudden downturn in the political relationship between the two nations could lead to damage in the economic realm. However, members of a 150-strong delegation from Jiangsu province arrived in Los Angeles this week, the first Chinese trade delegation to visit the United States since the bombing. Although the province’s governor did not accompany the group as scheduled, members of the delegation spoke optimistically about economic ties between the U.S. and China. Furthermore, U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky has also spoken optimistically regarding the resumption of talks on the WTO.

The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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Last updated: 21 May 1999
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