UPDATED at 5:15 P.M. EDT on 2020-05-27
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he had told the U.S. Congress that Beijing’s imposition of a draconian national security law in Hong Kong show that the former British colony is not autonomous from China, setting the stage for review of the city’s trade privileges.
“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,” tweeted.
Washington reviews the city's separate trading status in the U.S. market under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, passed in November 2019. The separate status was based on China's promises that the city would maintain "a high degree of autonomy" and a separate legal jurisdiction.
China’s ruling Chinese Communist Party on Monday said it will carry through its plan to impose a feared sedition and subversion law on Hong Kong, claiming it is part of a crackdown on "terrorism" in the city.
China's National People's Congress (NPC) -- which usually rubber stamps any government proposal put before it -- will "vote" on the plan on Thursday.
“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,” Pompeo said in a statement Wednesday.
“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 statement said.
“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,” added Pompeo.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Pompeo concluded.
Pompeo’s decision, which his spokeswoman said last week had been delayed to observe developments in Beijing, was published after Hong Kong police arrested more than 300 people amid renewed street protests ahead of China's imposition of the sedition laws on the city, bypassing its Legislative Council (LegCo).
Adding to the concern about Beijing’s intervention, state security police from mainland China will be allowed to set up shop in Hong Kong to fulfill their duties under the new law, according to a precis of the decision supplied by state-run Xinhua news agency.
Under the law, the administration must decide annually whether Hong Kong is governed autonomously from China, as Hong Kong residents were promised in the 1984 accord. The decision, for which Pompeo's input is critical, requires reports to Congress and an executive order from the U.S. president.
That order "may be terminated by the President with respect to a particular law or provision of law whenever the President determines that Hong Kong has regained sufficient autonomy to justify different treatment under the law or provision of law in question," reads the legislation.
The designation could result in Hong Kong-based individuals and entities facing higher trade tariffs, tougher investment rules and technology transfer policies, and cumbersome visa rules.
There was no immediate reaction from China to the statement, but earlier on Wednesday in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters: “If anyone insists on harming China’s interests, China is determined to take all necessary countermeasures. The national security law for Hong Kong is purely China’s internal affair that allows no foreign interference.”
Pompeo's decision was welcomed by critics of China in Washington, which is at odds with Beijing over issues ranging from trade to technology policy to responsibility for the coronavirus pandemic.
"We cannot let Beijing profit from breaking the Sino-British Joint Declaration and trying to crush the spirit of Hong Kong’s people,” said Sen. Marco Rubio chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees human rights and democracy
"The Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China have now undeniably violated Hong Kong’s autonomy at the expense of the precious freedoms the people of Hong Kong fought tirelessly and bravely to preserve," Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
"The State Department’s certification that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous is regrettable, but the Chinese Communist Party left us no choice. We must acknowledge the reality on the ground," said Rep. Michael McCaul, top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.