Hong Kong 'no longer autonomous from China' says Pompeo

27 May 2020, 19:33

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press briefing at the State Department on Wednesday
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press briefing at the State Department on Wednesday. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has notified Congress that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China.

Wednesday's notification to politicians sets the stage for the US to withdraw preferential trade and financial status that the former British colony has enjoyed since it reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

Mr Pompeo made the announcement amid growing protests as China prepares to pass a controversial new security law that tightens its grip on the city.

He said in a statement to Congress: "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."

Last week Mr Pompeo criticised Beijing's proposed national security law as “disastrous”, ahead of their expected approval by China’s rubber-stamp National People’s Congress on Thursday, bypassing Hong Kong’s parliament.

At least 360 people were arrested on Wednesday in another round of clashes between armed police and Hong Kongers over the legislation.

The proposed law has been denounced globally, with analysts warning it could limit many of the political freedoms and civil liberties enshrined by the 1997 agreement handing the city over from British to Chinese rule.

The protesters were also railing against a new bill that criminalises disrespecting the Chinese national anthem.

Mr Pompeo’s statement comes after US president Donald Trump suggested his trading relationship with Hong Kong will be in jeopardy if the law is passed.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Tuesday: “He [Trump] said to me that he's displeased with China's efforts and that it's hard to see how Hong Kong can remain a financial hub if China takes over.”

Under the "One Country, Two Systems" approach, Hong Kong retains limited democracy while under Beijing's control and gets privileges on trade compared to the mainland.