The US Secretary of State of Mike Pompeo has advised the US Congress that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China.
His note to the US Congress sets the stage for Washington to withdraw preferential trade and financial status that the former British colony has enjoyed since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.
Pompeo’s decision was not accompanied by a revocation of any specific privileges but comes amid calls for the US and others to react against Beijing’s move to impose Chinese national security laws in Hong Kong, which are aimed at forbidding secessionist and subversive activity, as well as foreign interference and terrorism.
“Beijing’s disastrous decision is only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms and China’s own promises to the Hong Kong people under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-filed international treaty,” Pompeo said.
Shortly after the announcement, Senator Lindsey Graham, called for the “Senate [to] act on bipartisan legislation sanctioning China for the destruction of Hong Kong’s democracy and freedom”.
Pompeo’s certification to Congress is required by the US’s Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support last year.
The law requires the US to impose sanctions against officials held responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong as well as determine whether the city continues to warrant special status.
China has reacted angrily to any suggestion that it be punished for what it considers to be a strictly domestic matter.
Asked about possible US retaliation over the security legislation, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in Beijing on Wednesday that China would take necessary steps to fight back against what he called “erroneous foreign interference in Hong Kong’s affairs”.
Earlier during November 2019 China has accused the United States of seeking to “destroy” Hong Kong and has threatened retaliation after Congress passed new legislation supporting the pro-democracy movement that has thrown the city into nearly six months of turmoil.
At that time Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the passage of the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act “indulges violent criminals” that China blames for the worsening unrest and aims to “muddle or even destroy Hong Kong”.