Trump Moves to Strip Hong Kong of Special U.S. Relationship

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MAY 29, 2020

President Trump would have to issue an executive order to end the special relationship between Hong Kong and the United States entirely, but he can take piecemeal actions. – Erin Schaff/NY Times

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Trump announced Friday that his administration would end almost all aspects of the American government’s special relationship with Hong Kong, including on trade and law enforcement, and that it was withdrawing from the World Health Organization, where the United States has been by far the largest funder.

Speaking at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden, Mr. Trump voiced a range of grievances against China, angrily denouncing the country’s trade and security practices and its handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak.

As punishment, Mr. Trump said he would strip away Hong Kong’s privileges with the United States, ranging from an extradition treaty to commercial relations, with few exceptions.

“My announcement today will affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong,” he said, including “action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.”

Mr. Trump’s announcement came largely in response to Beijing’s move this week to put in place broad new national security powers over Hong Kong. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he was reporting to Congress a determination that Hong Kong no longer had significant autonomy under Chinese rule. Mr. Pompeo had earlier called the new Chinese law a “death knell” for the territory, a global financial and commercial hub with special status under American law because, in theory, it has semiautonomy until 2047 under an international treaty that Britain and China signed.

Mr. Pompeo’s finding amounted to a recommendation that the United States should reconsider its special relationship with Hong Kong. A 1992 law says the United States should continue to treat the Beijing-ruled territory under the same conditions it did when it was a British colony.

Mr. Trump made clear on Friday that he no longer considered Hong Kong to be separate from China.

“China claims it is protecting national security. But the truth is that Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society. Beijing’s decision reverses all of that. It extends the reach of China’s invasive state security apparatus into what was formally a bastion of liberty,” Mr. Trump said.

He said the United States would suspend the entry of some Chinese citizens who have been identified as “potential security risks.” He did not give details, but appeared to be referring to a move to cancel the visas of graduate students and researchers who attended Chinese universities with ties to the military.

The New York Times reported this week that American officials had decided to go ahead with the action, which would affect thousands of Chinese students, a tiny percentage of the total number from China studying in the country.

Mr. Trump also repeated past charges that China had mishandled the coronavirus outbreak and suggested that Chinese officials had knowingly allowed travelers to fly from Wuhan to other countries, including the United States, while limiting access from Wuhan to other cities within China.

It was unclear from Mr. Trump’s announcement whether he was issuing a formal executive order to end the special relationship with Hong Kong entirely. The administration can take piecemeal actions — for example, imposing the same tariffs on goods from Hong Kong that the United States does on products from mainland China — before taking that final, drastic step.


Courtesy/Source: NY Times