Trump moves to strip Hong Kong of its special treatment to punish China

(File photo) US President Donald Trump accused Beijing of
The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said on Saturday it was a sad day for the global financial centre, hours after the United States President Donald Trump on Friday announced a slew of measures against China, including the decision to suspend entry of certain Chinese nationals to American universities, while attacking Beijing for snatching Hong Kong's freedom and the Asian country's coronavirus response.

The US President moved towards stripping the city of its special treatment in a bid to punish China, news agency Reuters reported.

More than 1,300 US companies have offices in Hong Kong and provide about 100,000 jobs. In the past decade, the United States' trade surplus with Hong Kong has been the biggest among all its trading partners, totaling $297 billion from 2009 to 2018.

Addressing reporters at White House, Trump said, "They have ripped off the US as no one has ever done before." He also announced that the US is terminating its relationship with the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"China's cover-up of the Wuhan virus allowed the disease to spread all over the world, instigating a global pandemic that has caused over 100,000 American lives and over a million lives worldwide. Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to WHO," he said.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
In some of his toughest rhetoric yet, Trump said Beijing had broken its word over Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy by proposing new national security legislation and the territory no longer warranted US economic privileges.

"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, adding that Washington would also impose sanctions on individuals seen as responsible for "smothering - absolutely smothering - Hong Kong's freedom."

"The Chinese government's move against Hong Kong is the latest in a series of measures that are diminishing the city's long-standing and very proud status. This is a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, people of China and indeed the people of the world," Trump said.

"China has replaced its promise of one country, two systems with one country, one system. Therefore, I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment," he further added.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said China's move on Hong Kong was a tragedy for the world. But Trump gave no timetable for the moves, leaving Hong Kong residents, businesses and officials to ponder just how far his administration will go.

"This is an emotional moment for Americans in Hong Kong and it will take companies and families a while to digest the ramifications," AmCham President Tara Joseph said in a statement.

"Many of us ... have deep ties to this city and with Hong Kong people. We love Hong Kong and it's a sad day," she said, adding the chamber would continue to work with its members to maintain Hong Kong's status as a vital business centre.

China's parliament this week approved a decision to create laws for Hong Kong to curb sedition, secession, terrorism and foreign interference. Mainland security and intelligence agents may be stationed in the city for the first time - moves critics say puts the city's extensive freedoms at risk.

Trump did not name any sanctions targets but said the announcement would "affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong", including the U.S.-Hong Kong extradition treaty to export controls on dual-use technologies and more "with few exceptions".

China's Global Times, which is published by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, said Trump's decision was a "recklessly arbitrary" step.

The Hong Kong government - which has a long history of working ties with the US counterparts distinct from Beijing - has yet to respond, although it warned on Thursday the move could be a double edged sword. 

Britain, meanwhile, is prepared to offer extended visa rights and a pathway to citizenship for almost 3 million Hong Kong residents in response to China's push to impose national security legislation in the former British colony.

In a joint statement, the US, UK, Canada and Australia on Thursday expressed "deep concern" over China's decision to impose national security law in Hong Kong, saying that the move would undermine the "one country, two systems" framework and is in direct conflict with its international obligations under the principles of the legally-binding.

Trump also called out China for "espionage to steal our industrial secrets, of which there are many," and announced steps to protect American investors from Chinese financial practices, accusing Beijing of "unlawfully claiming territory in the Pacific Ocean" and threatening freedom of navigation.

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