US President Donald Trump has signed an order to end preferential treatment for Hong Kong as his administration takes an increasingly harsh stance on China.
“Hong Kong will now be treated like mainland China,” the president told reporters at the White House.
Trump said he had also signed bipartisan legislation to impose sanctions on Chinese law enforcement officials in Hong Kong.
The United States has reduced Hong Kong’s special status in recent weeks.
“No special privileges, no special economic treatment and no exports of sensitive technologies,” Trump said during Tuesday’s press conference at the White House.
The territory, a former British colony, enjoys unique freedoms not found in mainland China.
But many people see it as a new security law imposed by Beijing as ending the special status of Hong Kong, agreed under a 1984 agreement between China and the United Kingdom.
The legislation – which prohibits criticism of the Chinese government – is the most radical change in the political landscape of Hong Kong since it was returned to China by the United Kingdom in 1997.
Speaking at the Rose Garden, Trump also said he had signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which was passed unanimously by Congress earlier this month.
He told reporters that he would hold China responsible for what he called the “oppressive” national security law it imposed on Hong Kong.
Trump also said at the request of a reporter that he did not intend to speak to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
What would the end of Hong Kong’s special status mean?
This decision could cause a major headache for more than 1,300 American companies operating on the territory.
US citizens currently enjoying a visa-free trip to Hong Kong may also face much tighter Chinese visa restrictions.
Hong Kong is expected to lose its lower US tariff rate, which puts into question tens of billions of dollars in annual trade between the United States and the territory.
Analysts believe that Hong Kong’s status as a global financial hub – and its position as China’s gateway to major international financial markets – could also be eroded.
Hong Kong’s new security law
What’s going on with American-Chinese relations?
Relations between Washington and Beijing have become more and more streamlined in recent months.
As the U.S. presidential election looms in November, Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, have accused each other of being weak on China.
The administration on Monday rejected China’s military buildup in the South China Sea, accusing it of intimidating its neighbors.
Last Friday, Trump told Air Force One reporters that a “phase two” trade deal with China is questionable because of his management of the coronavirus.
“Relations with China have been badly damaged,” he said. “They could have stopped the plague, they could have stopped it, they did not stop it. ”
The United States also officially pulled out of the World Health Organization last week, which Trump had accused of being indebted to China.
Last week, the Trump administration also announced sanctions against Chinese politicians who it claims are responsible for human rights abuses against Muslim minorities in Xinjiang.