Trump ends Hong Kong’s preferential status in response to China’s ‘oppressive’ actions against the city

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered the end of Hong Kong’s special status under US law to punish China for what he called “oppressive actions” against the former British colony.

United States President Donald Trump attends a press conference at the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, USA, July 14, 2020. REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst

Citing China’s decision to enact a new national security law for Hong Kong, Trump said he signed an executive order that will end the preferential economic treatment Hong Kong has received for years: “without special privileges, without special economic treatment and without export of sensitive technologies “. “He said at a press conference.

Acting on Tuesday’s deadline, it also signed a bill passed by the United States Congress to penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the new security law.

“Today I signed legislation and an executive order to hold China accountable for its aggressive actions against the people of Hong Kong,” said Trump.

“Hong Kong will now be treated in the same way as mainland China,” he added.

According to a White House fact sheet, the executive order includes revoking special treatment for Hong Kong passport holders.

Critics of the security law fear it will crush the broad freedoms promised to Hong Kong when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while supporters say it will bring stability to the city after a year of sometimes violent anti-government protests.

The security law punishes what Beijing defines broadly as subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

The United States’ relations with China have already been affected by the global coronavirus pandemic, China’s military build-up in the South China Sea, its treatment of Uighur Muslims, and massive trade surpluses.

The former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a law protecting freedoms of expression, assembly, and the press until 2047.

The legislation Trump signed calls for sanctions on Chinese officials and others who help violate Hong Kong’s autonomy, and on financial institutions that do business with those who have participated in any crackdown in the city.

Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has raised questions about whether he can win re-election on November 3 amid a surge of new infections. He tried to shift the blame onto China.

“Don’t make mistakes. We hold China fully responsible for hiding the virus and unleashing it in the world. They could have stopped it, they should have stopped it. It would have been very easy to do it at the source, when it happened,” he said.

When asked if he planned to speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump said, “I have no plans to speak to him.”


In confusing comments, Trump spent much of his appearance at Rose Garden criticizing Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden.

The virus restricts both candidates from active campaign rallies and fears that participants may become infected.

Ending China’s special economic status could be a double-edged sword for the United States.

Hong Kong was the source of the largest US goods trade bilateral surplus last year, at $ 26.1 billion, according to data from the US Census Bureau. It is also a major destination for legal business and accountant of the United States. More than 1,300 US companies have offices there.

Analysts say ending the Hong Kong special treatment entirely could backfire for the United States, which has benefited from favorable business conditions in the territory.

According to the State Department, 85,000 U.S. citizens lived in Hong Kong in 2018, and more than 1,300 U.S. companies operate there, including almost all of the major U.S. financial firms.

The territory is an important destination for the legal and accounting services of the United States. In 2018, the largest bilateral US goods trade surplus was with Hong Kong at $ 31.1 billion.

The United States began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under US law in late June, halting defense exports and restricting territory access to high-tech products as China prepared to enact security legislation.

In May, Trump responded to China’s plans for the security law by saying he was initiating a process to remove the special economic treatment that has allowed Hong Kong to remain a global financial center.

He stopped before calling for an immediate end to the privileges, but said the measures would affect the entire range of the United States’ agreements with Hong Kong, from an extradition treaty to export controls on dual-use technologies.

An American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the administration was also preparing sanctions against Chinese officials and entities involved in the Hong Kong crackdown, including more U.S. travel bans and possible Treasury sanctions.

The timing was unclear. The White House had previously threatened such sanctions, but has so far only imposed visa restrictions on an unspecified number of unidentified Chinese officials.

Reports by Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Additional reports by David Brunnstrom, Alexandra Alper, Patricia Zengerle, Eric Beech, Makini Brice and Matt Spetalnick; Leslie Adler and Peter Cooney edition

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