WASHINGTON – President Trump announced Friday that his administration would end almost every aspect of the US government’s special relationship with Hong Kong, including in trade and law enforcement, and withdraw from the World Health Organization, where the United States has been superior to the largest financier.
Speaking at a news conference in the White House’s rose garden, Trump spoke about a series of complaints against China and angrily denied the country’s trade and security practices and the handling of the first coronavirus outbreak.
“My announcement today will affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong,” he said, including “measures to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel area from the rest of China.”
Trump’s announcement came largely in response to Beijing’s move this week to introduce broad new national security forces across Hong Kong. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he was reporting to Congress a determination that Hong Kong no longer had any significant autonomy under Chinese rule. Mr. Pompeo had previously called the new Chinese law a “death knell” for the territory, a global financial and commercial hub with special status under US law, since it in theory has half-development until 2047 under an international treaty signed by Britain and China.
Mr Pompeo’s finding was a recommendation that the United States should reconsider its special relationship with Hong Kong. A 1992 law states that the United States should continue to treat Beijing-controlled territory under the same conditions as it did when it was a British colony.
Trump made it clear on Friday that he no longer considered Hong Kong separate from China.
“China claims that it protects national security. But the truth is that Hong Kong was safe and prosperous as a free society. Beijing’s decision reverses all this. It extends the reach of China’s invasive state security apparatus to what was formally a bastion of freedom, “Trump said.
He said that the United States would block the entry of some Chinese citizens who have been identified as “potential security risks.” He did not provide details, but appeared to refer to a move to cancel visas for doctoral students and researchers attending Chinese universities with ties to the military.
Trump also repeated previous allegations that China had abused the coronavirus outbreak, suggesting that Chinese officials had deliberately allowed travelers to fly from Wuhan to other countries, including the United States, while restricting Wuhan’s access to other cities in China.
It was unclear from Trump’s announcement whether he issued a formal executive order to end the special relationship with Hong Kong completely. The administration can take piecemeal measures – for example, imposing the same tariffs on goods from Hong Kong as the United States does on products from China, before taking the last, drastic step.
Alan Rappeport contributed with the reporting.