At a press conference Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump said that he would move to strip Hong Kong of its special trade status in retaliation for Beijing’s recent actions to reduce the city-state’s autonomy.
Last week, the Chinese government – specifically, the National People’s Congress – said that it would impose new national security legislation on Hong Kong that would ban “any acts or activities” threating China’s national security. It would also open the door for China’s security agencies to operate openly and legally in the city. The decision is a departure from Beijing’s “one country, two systems” policy, which assured a measure of self-governance for Hong Kong as part of a 1984 handover agreement with the government of the UK.
Reflecting its relative independence, Hong Kong has a privileged trade relationship with the United States, and it is exempt from many of the U.S. tariffs and restrictions that affect mainland China. However, in the Trump administration’s view, that status has changed. “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Thursday.
President Trump’s speech Friday suggested a hardening of his administration’s position in its longstanding trade and intellectual property dispute with Beijing. “We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China,” Trump said. “My announcement today will affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong . . . [including] action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.”
Separately, the UK and the U.S. have called for the UN to condemn China’s actions in Hong Kong. “The United States is resolute, and calls upon all UN members states to join us in demanding that [Beijing] immediately reverse course and honor its international legal commitments to this institution and to the Hong Kong people,” said U.S. Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft.
China’s foreign ministry has made clear that it considers Hong Kong’s status as “purely an internal Chinese matter,” and that other nations have no standing to dispute its management.