Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remains firm in blaming China for keeping the truth about the origin of the coronavirus hidden in the rest of the world. (May 6)
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous of China – a historic decision likely to increase already strained US-China relations and which could have serious economic consequences for the global financial center.
"No reasonable person can claim today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given the facts on the ground." Pompeo said in a statement.
The White House will determine the next step, which may involve further sanctions against China, visa restrictions on government officials or the cancellation of Hong Kong's special commercial status.
"We will do our best to ensure that the people of Hong Kong are not adversely affected," said David R. Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for the Trump administration for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.
"There is a very long list of things the president could do in response," said Stilwell. He declined to offer further details, but said the White House's actions would be "as targeted as possible" to avoid hurting Hong Kong and sending a clear message to China's authoritarian leaders.
Pompeo's assessment was triggered by the move by the Chinese government to assert comprehensive authority on Hong Kong and it occurs when tensions between the Trump administration and Beijing increase dramatically due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Hu Xijin, editor of a Chinese state-owned media outlet, reacted to Pompeo because of the Trump administration's assessment.
"If Hong Kong from China is autonomous, how is it possible for the US to define?" Hu wrote on Twitter. He called Pompeo "Secretary of State usually lying down".
Hong Kong returned to China from British control as a semi-autonomous territory in 1997 – with the proviso that China maintained a "one country, two systems" structure, guaranteeing freedoms not found on the continent.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping is ready to pressure a national security law through its rubber stamp legislature that would prohibit treason and other perceived offenses in Hong Kong – a move that critics say aim to repress pro-democracy protests and place the territory firmly under China's rule.
"Hong Kong and its dynamic, enterprising and free people have flourished for decades as a bastion of freedom, and that decision does not give me pleasure," said Pompeo. "While the United States hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong will provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is shaping Hong Kong after itself."
Pompeo was forced to make the determination under a US law granting Hong Kong special commercial status – including exemptions from certain tariffs and export controls that the United States imposes on China.
In a show of support for Hong Kong's autonomy and democracy protesters, Congress passed bipartisan legislation last year, requiring the State Department to reconsider the special treatment of the territory annually, which helped elevate the city to power. global financial system.
Chinese authorities were furious when President Donald Trump signed the bill into law last year. It is unclear whether the government will adopt Hong Kong's withdrawal from these economic advantages.
Foreign policy experts said the decision could have far-reaching consequences.
"This is potentially huge," tweeted Michael Fuchs, former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs in the Obama administration, on Wednesday.
Fuchs, who is on the Center for American Progress liberal think tank, said the question is whether the United States "will impose sanctions or terminate certain trade agreements with Hong Kong, which could fundamentally change US-China relations, Hong's future. Kong and the United States ". global economic system ".
Mark Galasiewski, an investment analyst at Elliott Wave International, a financial forecasting firm, said the U.S. stock is unlikely to have more than a temporary impact on Hong Kong stocks, as markets have already fallen in 2020.
The "one country, two systems" structure was intended to ensure that the capitalist Hong Kong maintained a measure of legal, economic and financial independence from mainland socialist China, but that autonomy has been the target of increasing attacks as Beijing pressures to increase its control. about Hong Kong. Kong. Hong Kong was hit by nearly six months of violent anti-China and pro-democracy protests last year after Beijing tried to impose an extradition law.
Although this law was not passed, anti-China sentiment increased, protests proliferated and Beijing continued to try to undermine Hong Kong's rights.
The proposed new Chinese national security law would ban "treason, secession, sedition and subversion" in Hong Kong.
Joshua Wong, a democracy activist in Hong Kong, said that China's law would serious damage for the territory's business sector – leading to possible boycotts and other consequences.
At the a published topic On Twitter, Wong said Hong Kong's autonomy – including its independent judiciary and relatively loose trade regulations – has attracted financial investment, but that is at risk. He urged the Trump administration, as well as European and Asian leaders, to reconsider Hong Kong's special commercial status.
"Hong Kong will be assimilated by China's authoritarian regime, both in the rule of law and in the protection of human rights" if Xi's national security law is passed, he said. "The proposed law is the springboard for China's future intervention."
The Trump administration's announcement comes after U.S. lawmakers proposed a bill to sanction anyone who violates "China's obligations to Hong Kong under the Joint (Sino-British) Declaration and Basic Law" – the formal terms under Hong Kong was granted partial legal, economic and financial independence.
It is unclear what impact, if any, the action will have on a pending trade agreement between the United States and China. Phase 1 of the agreement was signed less than five months ago, and although the two sides have adopted a more severe diplomatic tone, they have been discreet about their intention to implement it.
The riot police arrested a protester during a demonstration against Beijing's national security legislation at Causeway Bay in Hong Kong on May 24. Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas in a popular shopping district when hundreds took to the streets to march. (Photo: Vincent Yu, AP)
Pompeo and Trump accused China of deceiving the U.S. and other countries about the new coronavirus, which emerged in Wuhan before it spread worldwide. Beijing denied any suggestion that it was not transparent about the coronavirus outbreak.
The Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington think tank, warned in an analysis on May 21 that "the risk of a military confrontation in the South China Sea involving the United States and China could increase significantly in the next eighteen months, especially if their relationship continues to deteriorate as a result of ongoing trade frictions and recriminations about the new coronavirus pandemic ".
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