Washington (AFP) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared Wednesday that Hong Kong no longer enjoys the autonomy promised by Beijing, stripping the financial hub of its special status under US law.
Hours before Beijing will hold a key vote on a controversial new security law on Hong Kong, Pompeo sent a notice to Congress that China was not living up to obligations from before it regained control of the territory from Britain in 1997.
“I certified to Congress today that Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as US 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.”
Under a law passed last year by Congress aimed at supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, the administration has to certify that the territory is still autonomous to enjoy its separate status with the US for trading purposes.
Pompeo had initially delayed the report, saying the United States was waiting to see the session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress.
The legislature is expected on Thursday to move forward on a law that would ban “sedition” and other perceived offenses.
Hong Kong activists say that the law effectively abolishes the basic freedoms enjoyed in the financial hub.
“While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself,” Pompeo said.
“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong as they struggle against the CCP’s increasing denial of the autonomy that they were promised,” he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.