Trump says he’ll begin removal of Hong Kong’s preferred status

Accuses China of diminishing Hong Kong's status

President Donald Trump announced a series of measures designed to punish Beijing for its treatment of Hong Kong and other actions.  (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump announced a series of measures designed to punish Beijing for its treatment of Hong Kong and other actions. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Posted May 29, 2020 at 4:01pm

President Donald Trump announced sanctions against China for its actions to assert greater political control over Hong Kong on Friday, but he also took the opportunity to attack Beijing for its alleged role in covering up the outbreak of coronavirus and for its unfair trade policies.

And he threatened a broad range of sanctions, not all of them linked specifically to Hong Kong’s special status under international law. They range from greater restrictions on Chinese nationals studying at U.S. universities to a review of whether Chinese companies listed on U.S. financial markets pose a risk.

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

Among the Hong Kong-focused sanctions that the president promised were an administration review of special exceptions in U.S. laws and special agreements with Hong Kong, covering issues ranging from export control to extradition.

Trump also said that the administration would take action to revoke Hong Kong’s status as a special customs and travel territory under U.S. law. And Chinese officials involved in actions to suppress Hong Kong’s autonomy will be targeted for visa restrictions, he said.

The president also said he would withdraw the U.S. from the World Health Organization and would issue a proclamation to "study" practices of Chinese companies listed on U.S. financial markets. He said investment firms shouldn't be subjecting clients to hidden and undue risks.

The administration action follows a steady campaign by Beijing to curb Hong Kong’s autonomy, culminating with the May 22 introduction in the National People’s Congress of national security legislation that “contradicts the spirit and practice of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the One Country, Two Systems framework,” according to the State Department.

The department reported to Congress this week that it could no longer certify that Hong Kong retained sufficient autonomy to warrant differential treatment under the Hong Kong Policy Act and 2019 amendments to the law.    

However, the president’s nine-minute remarks opened with a broader blast at China for its trade policies, for its greater assertion of sovereignty in the Pacific, and to its alleged complicity in the global COVID-19 pandemic by not fulfilling its obligation to notify the World Health Organization.

“The death and destruction caused by this are incalculable,” Trump said. “We must have answers, not just for us, but for the world.”

Trump gave no indication whether he is considering ending or changing the phase one U.S.-China trade deal that took effect Feb. 14.