No more ‘special treatment’? Trump announces end to Hong Kong policy exemptions & sanctions for national security law backers

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US President Donald Trump has warned China and pro-Beijing officials in Hong Kong that officials who backed the recent national security law will face sanctions and that Hong Kong stands to lose its preferential treatment.

Trump announced plans to strip Hong Kong of the trade and diplomatic perks it previously enjoyed as a partially-autonomous territory during a press conference on Friday, blaming China’s passage of the national security bill earlier this week. “They broke their word on ensuring the autonomy of Hong Kong,” he declared.

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Hong Kong will be treated the same as China with regard to its extradition treaty, customs duties, and the strict export controls placed on dual-use technology, Trump said, adding that the US State Department will revise its travel advisory to warn Americans about “the increased danger of surveillance and punishment by the Chinese state security apparatus.”

Trump also pledged to sanction officials in Beijing and Hong Kong who supported the national security law, declaring they must be punished for “eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy” and “smothering Hong Kong’s freedom.”

While the details of the controversial Chinese national security law, passed by parliament on Thursday, have not yet been released to the public, its passage has already reignited the protests that brought parts of Hong Kong to a standstill last year. It is believed to include harsher punishments for using violence to intimidate people for a political cause, insulting China’s national symbols, and attempting to break away from the country.

Trump accused China of violating its treaty obligations under the Basic Law, the terms under which the UK ceded control of the territory in 1997. Beijing is bound by those provisions for another 27 years, the president argued.

The president had hinted on Tuesday that he was planning a “very interesting and powerful action” to counter China’s moves in Hong Kong after Chinese state media accused the US of “using national security as an excuse to suppress normal commercial activities,” essentially calling his bluff on the threatened sanctions. 

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China’s Foreign Ministry pledged on Wednesday to take all necessary countermeasures to address “foreign interference” regarding the national security law, a statement presumably aimed at the US. While the EU has also criticized China’s actions in Hong Kong, it ruled out the possibility of attempting to punish the country with sanctions earlier this week.

The White House has also announced a ban on visas for Chinese nationals employed by the country’s military or affiliated organizations seeking to enter the US for the purposes of research or study at the graduate or postgraduate level, citing the threat of intellectual property theft.

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