On Wednesday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the State Department no longer considered Hong Kong to have a “high degree of autonomy” under Chinese rule.
“I certified to Congress today that Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under US laws in the same manner as US laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997. No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” said Pompeo.
“Hong Kong and its dynamic, enterprising and free people have flourished for decades as a bastion of liberty, and this decision gives me no pleasure. But sound policymaking requires a recognition of reality. While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself.”
This announcement follows weekend protests by outraged Hong Kongers over Beijing’s security bill – a bill that would prevent and punish acts and activities related to subversion, terrorism, separatism and foreign interference. On Wednesday, the island was again rocked by fresh protests as Hong Kong police fired pepper rounds at ralliers opposing a national anthem law – a law that would penalize those who insult and misuse the Chinese national anthem on the island.
Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain in 1997. In 1992, the US passed a law that stated that the special administrative region will be treated as how it would be as a British colony.
This US agreement was built on the Sino-British joint declaration which demands that the island remains highly autonomous and unchanged for 50 years. With 2047 still decades away and the Chinese government invalidating the declaration by proposing a law that would act to impede on the island’s democratic civil liberties, Hong Kong and the US’ relationship has now grown ambiguous.
Earlier on Wednesday at a news conference, Zhao Lijian, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman pushed back warning that, “If anyone insists on harming China’s interests, China is determined to take all necessary countermeasures. The national security law for Hong Kong is purely China’s internal affair that allows no foreign interference.”
While the specific actions the US may take remain unclear, if the US is to classify the semi-autonomous region as mainland China, the Trump administration could impose the same tariffs on exports from Hong Kong that it places on goods from mainland China,
Other trade restrictions imposed on Hong Kong may include bans or limits on what American companies can sell to Hong Kong companies due to national security or human rights concerns in mainland China. Some of Trump’s advisers are also reportedly discussing visa bans on Chinese officials who enact the law.
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