U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Wednesday that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China, threatening vital and longstanding U.S. support, after Beijing announced a national security bill that would bypass the city’s legislature.
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The decision paves the way to end the region's access to key U.S. technologies and makes it easier for the U.S. to place tariffs on exports. The technologies give Hong Kong a leg up over mainland China as a place to do business.
“After careful study of developments over the reporting period, I certified to Congress today that Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997,” Pompeo said in a statement. “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground."
The Sino-British Joint Declaration said Hong Kong, which had been under Britain's control for decades, would be subject to the principle of “one country, two systems” for 50 years following the 1997 handover from Great Britain to China.
“Hong Kong is not under the framework of one country, two systems anymore,” Joshua Wong, secretary general of Demosisto, a Hong Kong-based movement-oriented youth activist group, told FOX Business before Secretary Pompeo’s decision on Wednesday.
He said the Chinese government “took advantage" of the global COVID-19 pandemic to introduce its national security law, adding that Hong Kong should not be recognized as a free port anymore as Beijing is not respecting the Sino-British Joint Declaration or the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act.
The law established that the U.S. would treat Hong Kong differently than mainland China for trade and economic policy matters following the 1997 handover.
In a series of tweets sent out after Pompeo's announcement on Wednesday, Wong said China's new security law causes "massive damage" to ex-pats and investors in Hong Kong and will "erode" firewalls designed to avert influence from Beijing in areas such as human rights protections, an independent judiciary and looser business regulations, all of which make Hong Kong attractive to business.
Hong Kong was ranked as the world’s third-most prominent financial center, trailing only New York and London, in a May 2019 survey from global advisor Duff & Phelps.
The city’s economy entered a recession last fall after months of pro-democracy protests brought economic activity to a screeching halt. The economy continued to suffer through the first half of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China, and has infected more than 5.6 million people worldwide.
Wong told FOX Business the U.S. should impose sanctions on individuals, including government officials, and place an embargo on dual-use technology products.
Now is a “good time for us to get people, our people, on the streets and to organize protests, class boycotts and labor strikes,” Wong said, adding that the number of new COVID-19 cases in Hong Kong has been near zero for a few weeks.
“Freedom of speech and religious freedom are two of the cornerstones of Hong Kong. And we encourage the free world to stand up with Hong Kong,” Wong said.
“Supporting Hong Kong should not be the matter of left or right, it is the matter of right or wrong,” he added. “Now is the time for us to fight back.”