Washington, May 30: US President Donald Trump said that Washington will no longer extend preferential treatment to Hong Kong in light of China’s bid to exercise tighter control over the former British colony.
“The Chinese government moves 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, the people of China and indeed the people of the world,” Trump said on Friday at the White House.
Trump’s remarks came a day after China’s legislature approved a national security law seen as aimed at reducing the autonomy Hong Kong has enjoyed since rejoining the mainland in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” formula.
Though Hong Kong has never been a democracy, Beijing agreed to maintain the modest degree of representative government instituted by the British colonial authorities in the late 1980s as they prepared for the handover of sovereignty to China.
But China’s government has shown growing impatience with the existing arrangement following months of sometimes-violent anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong.
“China has replaced its promised formula of one country, two systems, with one country, one system,” Trump said on Friday.
“Therefore, I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment.”
The order applies to the “full range of agreements” between Washington and Hong Kong, the president said.
“We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China,” he said.
That could make products from Hong Kong subject to the same tariffs that the Trump administration has levied on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports.
Extending the tariffs to Hong Kong would have little practical effect, as the volume of US-bound exports is negligible.
Trump said his administration also planned to impose sanctions on individual Chinese and Hong Kong officials “involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy”.
He did not announce any steps to restrict the operations of US companies with a presence in Hong Kong, nor did he raise the possibility of scrapping the “phase one” trade agreement he reached last year with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (IANS)