Trump moves to punish China over Hong Kong

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order ending Hong Kong’s preferential trade treatment and enacted a bill that would require sanctions against foreign individuals and banks that contribute to the erosion of the city’s autonomy.
“Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” Trump said in a news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House. “No special privileges, no special economic treatment, and no export of sensitive technologies.”
On Wednesday, China said it would retaliate and sanction United States institutions and individuals.
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The Hong Kong Autonomy Act and executive order are in response to China’s imposition of a controversial national security law on Hong Kong, which critics, including US lawmakers, say violates the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
The Joint Declaration prescribed that the city would enjoy a “high degree of autonomy” until at least 2047.
The national law criminalizes a wide range of behavior under four categories of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion. It allows Beijing to extradite suspects to the mainland in some instances. The law is also extraterritorial, covering alleged crimes committed outside the city.
The executive order could open up Hong Kong to the tariffs his administration has slapped on Chinese exports during the two-year trade war between Washington and Beijing.
Trump’s signing of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act came shortly before a deadline for the US leader to sign or veto the legislation.
Introduced in late May, the bill breezed through both chambers of Congress in a handful of weeks ” a quick turnaround for a congressional session.
With lawmakers having approved the bill via unanimous consent, a presidential veto would have been met with strong opposition from a Congress that has united around challenging Beijing on its actions. A two-thirds majority vote could have defeated a veto.
After unveiling his administration’s steps to punish Beijing over Hong Kong, Trump spent a few moments of a longer speech endorsing the new Hong Kong-related legislation handed to him.
Trump said the law gave his administration “powerful new tools to hold responsible the individuals and the entities involved in extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom.”
Trump said of Hongkongers, “Their freedom has been taken away. Their rights have been taken away and with it goes Hong Kong, in my opinion, because it will no longer be able to compete with free markets.”
He added that he thought “a lot of people will be leaving Hong Kong.”
The act requires “mandatory sanctions” against any foreign individual for “materially contributing” to the violation of China’s commitments to Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.
It also directs the US administration to levy sanctions against foreign financial institutions ” including subsidiaries of US firms ” that knowingly conduct business with designated individuals.
People targeted under the law would be barred from entering the US and lose control over any US-based assets. Sanctioned banks would also lose control of US-held assets, but would also be subjected to other punitive measures, including being prohibited from taking loans from any US institution and carrying out transactions that fall under American jurisdiction.
Asked by a reporter whether he had plans to speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the near future, Trump said: “No I don’t. I have no plan to speak to him.”
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