WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump ordered his administration Friday to halt Hong Kong’s preferential treatment under US law in retaliation for China’s decision to apply a national security law to the semi-autonomous territory.
“I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden, noting the directive will span all bilateral agreements with Hong Kong from trade to extradition.
“We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China,” he added.
China’s National People’s Congress, the country’s top legislative body, formally passed the Hong Kong security legislation on Thursday. Activists fear it will be used by Beijing to quash dissent in the territory.
Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous region under China since 1997, last year witnessed months of protests against a move to legalise extradition to mainland China.
Trump said that by instituting the controversial law Beijing “unilaterally imposed control over Hong Kong’s security.”
“Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society. 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,” he said. “This was a plain violation of Beijing’s treaty obligations with the United Kingdom in the declaration of 1984, and explicit provisions of Hong Kong’s basic law.”
China has accused the US of playing “power politics and bullying practices.”
“China categorically rejects the baseless request of the US for a Security Council meeting. Legislation on national security for Hong Kong is purely China’s internal affairs. It has nothing to do with the mandate of the Security Council,” China’s Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun wrote on Twitter.
As a permanent Security Council member Beijing prevented the body from holding a formal meeting on Hong Kong. But the US and UK held an informal session over the security law alongside other members.
Kelly Craft, the US’s UN envoy, said in a statement issued after the meeting that China “abhors transparency and only fulfils its international commitments and obligations when it’s convenient.”
“Today I asked the Council one simple question: are we going to take the honourable stand to defend the human rights and the dignified way of life that millions of Hong Kong citizens have enjoyed and deserve like all freedom-loving people, or are we going to allow the Chinese Communist Party to violate international law and force its will on the people of Hong Kong who look to us to preserve their way of life and their freedoms?” she asked.
“The United States is resolute, and calls upon all UN members states to join us in demanding that the PRC immediately reverse course.”