Donald Trump Ends Special Trade Status for Hong Kong

President Donald Trump speaks during an event to sign a proclamation in honor of World Nurses Day, in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, May 6, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday he will end the special trade preferences granted to Hong Kong because the island is no longer truly “autonomous” after Communist China imposed an oppressive security law at the beginning of July.

The Chinese government angrily responded with promises of retaliatory sanctions against the United States.

Trump issued an executive order that blocks access to the U.S. property of anyone held responsible for “actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Hong Kong” and will revoke special export license and passport exceptions for Hong Kong premised on the island’s partial autonomy from Chinese Communist Party control.

“Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China: no special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies,” Trump said at a press conference on Tuesday.

“Their freedom has been taken away; their rights have been taken away. And with it goes Hong Kong, in my opinion, because it will no longer be able to compete with free markets. A lot of people will be leaving Hong Kong,” Trump predicted.

Trump also announced he signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act into law, giving his administration “powerful new tools to hold responsible the individuals and the entities involved in extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom.”

The law signed by Trump provides for tough sanctions against Chinese officials and business entities that participate in the oppression of Hong Kong’s people or the subversion of its autonomy. Trump pledged these congressional and executive actions will “hold China accountable for its aggressive actions against the people of Hong Kong.”

Although Trump has previously emphasized he has a good personal relationship with Chinese dictator Xi Jinping, he said he has no plans to discuss his actions on Hong Kong with Xi.

The South China Morning Post quoted analysts who expected the U.S. could take even tougher actions against China over its treatment of Hong Kong, possibly including tariffs, travel bans, Treasury Department sanctions, and tighter financial regulations. 

Some of those experts thought Beijing may have trouble absorbing the blow from America’s response to the oppression of Hong Kong, despite the confident boasts of Chinese officials that they have anticipated all consequences and have the economic strength to deal with them. The possibility of a U.S.-led global “decoupling” from China is growing more realistic, and while there would be hard times all around, even some Chinese analysts appear worried that China will suffer the most.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry on Wednesday threatened to impose retaliatory sanctions against American individuals and business entities, insisting that “Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs and no foreign country has the right to interfere.”

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