Thursday, November 28, 2019

Lede, Buried

Protesters thanking the United States, via Sky News.

Speaking of gratitude, Hong Kong activists and some of their admirers have been tweeting out a lot of it to Donald Trump for signing the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act authorizing sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials involved in the repression of the demonstrations and requiring the State Department to do an annual review of Hong Kong's special trade status, passed unanimously by the Senate and 417 to 1 by the House.

Those thanks may be a little misplaced. That the president signed the bill was inevitable given the majorities, though as a matter of fact he'd threatened to veto it before the votes; that isn't news. But the buried lede is that he issued it with a signing statement that the newspapers aren't running in full: I ran into it on Twitter.

That is to say, he reserves the right to not obey it if he finds it "interferes" with his "constitutional authority, just as he did with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) authorizing sanctions on Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, passed by similar majorities at the end of July 2017 (including some of those Republican senators now saying "Ukraine might have done it"), which he also threatened emptily to veto before signing it into law in 2 August. And successfully avoided implementing it for almost two and a half years at present writing, as I explained last June.

In short, there aren't going to be any sanctions on China in behalf of democracy in Hong Kong as long as Trump is president, because emperors don't submit to Congress if their grand viziers can figure out ways of avoiding it and their fellow emperors don't want them to.

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