Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday that he certified to Congress that Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner applied before the territory was handed over to communist China in 1997.
The finding could allow the U.S. to alter its special trade and economic relationship with Hong Kong, a former British territory that was to remain semi-autonomous for 50 years after the date of the handover in a “one country, two systems” arrangement.
The Trump administration’s decision is tied to China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) decision to impose national security legislation on Hong Kong that would allow Chinese security agencies to crack down on civil liberties in Hong Kong.
The law would “prevent, stop and punish” acts of secession, subversion, terrorism or interference by foreign forces in Hong Kong affairs, and give security agencies from the mainland a freer hand to operate in the city.
The law comes after millions of Hong Kongers took to the streets last year protesting Beijing’s tightening of control — becoming a global rallying cry and embarrassing Beijing. The NPC will vote on the law on Thursday.
Pompeo said in a statement:
Last week, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) National People’s Congress announced its intention to unilaterally and arbitrarily impose national security legislation on Hong Kong. Beijing’s disastrous decision is only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms and China’s own promises to the Hong Kong people under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-filed international treaty.
The State Department is required by the Hong Kong Policy Act to assess the autonomy of the territory from China. 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. No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.
Hong Kong and its dynamic, enterprising, and free people have flourished for decades as a bastion of liberty, and this decision gives me no pleasure. But sound policy making requires a recognition of reality. 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.
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.
Today, I reported to Congress that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China, given facts on the ground. The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 27, 2020
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) said in a statement that the U.S. decision, “recognizes the sad reality that Beijing has tried to kill self-government in Hong Kong in pursuit of a One Country, One System arrangement.”
“The Chinese Communist Party broke promises to the people of Hong Kong and broke treaties with the United Kingdom. In the days and weeks ahead, it will be critical for America to stand with the freedom loving people of Hong Kong, and for America to be judicious in how we lead the free world in imposing costs on Beijing,” he added.
“We should not waiver in punishing Xi and his thugs who invited today’s decision.”