Thanks to years of unfair trade practices, the C.C.P. has been able to concentrate wealth and power. More recently, the Chinese government has managed to consolidate its grip by capitalizing on the Covid-19 pandemic: extending the digital surveillance of its citizens in the name of combating the virus or, while other governments struggle with health crises at home, clamping down on the Hong Kong democracy movement and asserting its presence in the South China Sea. This, even though by all serious accounts, the new coronavirus first appeared in China, and more and more reports and investigations — including a recent CNN analysis of leaked documents from Hubei Province — show that the Chinese authorities covered up news of the initial outbreak.
In the past few years, the Trump administration took various measures to condemn the repression in Hong Kong. It terminated the city’s special trade status; it imposed sanctions on C.C.P. and Hong Kong officials for cracking down on protesters. (Mrs. Lam recently said that she was receiving her government salary in cash, and had “piles” of it at home, because no bank would give her an account anymore.)
Other world leaders, various labor rights organizations and businesses have also begun to re-evaluate their misguided arrangements with China. Many have come to ask whether the allure of short-term financial gains should overshadow the prospect of other kinds of long-term losses.
Imposing tariffs on Chinese imports, blacklisting C.C.P.-sponsored companies, investigating C.C.P.-funding at American universities and the activities of the party’s so-called united front, its worldwide network of influence — all these moves serve the valuable purpose of signaling to China’s leadership that it is violating global rules and that that won’t be tolerated.
Yet so far these efforts have not secured any substantial reform from the C.C.P.
We hope that the Biden administration will review and reform asylum policies for Hong Kongers and take a close look at sanctions against those who attack the city’s democratic institutions. Critical decisions also need to be made by the new administration about the protection of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet and strengthening diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
Washington must craft a China policy that puts human rights front and center, but without neglecting the urgent need, too, for environmental protection, greater respect for labor rights and fair trade. That would continue to signal strong support not only for human rights activists or proponents of democracy in Hong Kong, but for all people who want to be free.
Nathan Law Kwun Chung (@nathanlawkc) is a pro-democracy activist from Hong Kong. Alex Chow (@alexchow18), a Ph.D. student at the University of California-Berkeley, is a Hong Kong activist.