“No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.”
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has notified Congress that the United States no longer considers Hong Kong autonomous from Communist China, paving the way for Washington to revoke the specialized trade and financial status it enjoys since coming under Beijing’s rule in 1997.
“Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997,” Pompeo said on Wednesday. “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” he added.
The announcement by the U.S. State Department comes at a time when the Chinese Communist Party is imposing sweeping “security” laws undermining the democratic freedoms and the rule of law traditionally enjoyed by the people of the territory under the British administration, which ended almost 23 years ago.
The decision by the U.S. could end the era of property, which began in the post-war years under British rule. Pro-China Hong Kong administrators could face U.S. sanctions following the State Department’s decision.
“Hong Kong stocks fell after the Trump administration said it could no longer certify the former colony’s political autonomy from China, spurring concern the US will impose sanctions and other measures,” The Irish Times reported. “Mr Pompeo’s decision opens the door for a range of options, from visa restrictions and asset freezes for top officials to possibly imposing tariffs on goods coming from the former British colony,” the newspaper noted.
Reuters news agency reported Secretary Pompeo’s remarks:
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong no longer qualifies for its special status under U.S. law, potentially dealing a crushing blow to its status as a major financial hub.
China had undermined Hong Kong’s autonomy so fundamentally, Pompeo said, that he could not support its recertification for its special pre-1997 trading status.
China’s plan for new security legislation triggered protests in the territory, and it now falls to President Donald Trump to decide to end some, all or none of the U.S. economic privileges the territory enjoys.
While Pompeo made no recommendations in his statement, Trump has a long list of possible responses, including visa and economic sanctions, David Stilwell, the State Department’s assistant secretary for East Asia, told reporters.
People familiar with the matter told Reuters the Trump administration was considering suspending Hong Kong’s preferential tariff rates for exports to the United States as part of its response to China’s plan.
Trump could also opt for targeted sanctions against Chinese officials, government entities and businesses involved in enforcing the new legislation, according one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s Communist-controlled top legislative body, passed a draft resolution approving a series of security laws bypassing the sovereignty of the Hong Kong parliament. The new set of laws, which give pro-China Hong Kong authorities power to curtail freedoms and crush popular dissent, violate the autonomy promised by Beijing under the “one country, two systems” policy while acquiring the territory.
Hong Kong became one of the world’s busiest ports and a global financial hub under British rule. That prosperity is now under threat from Chinese expansionism.
“China’s move to further absorb Hong Kong will have [a] small direct economic effect, but will damage [the] city’s status as an international hub in long term,” the leading Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post commented.
Communist China is consolidating its grip at home and projecting its military power abroad since the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic began late last year. Chinese ruler Xi Jinping recently announced that China is stepping up preparations for a military showdown in the region.
“It is necessary to step up preparations for armed combat, to flexibly carry out actual combat military training, and to improve our military’s ability to perform military missions,” Xi Jinping said.
Pro-Beijing officials are leading a clampdown on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. In recent months, China’s People Liberation Army has repeatedly violated Taiwan’s airspace, a free country Beijing regards as part of its territory. Chinese troops moved into Indian territory at multiple locations along the Himalayan-Tibetan border over the weekend, Indian newspapers reported.
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