The United States will stop exporting defence equipment to Hong Kong because of Beijing’s pending implementation of a national security law, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Monday.
As China moves forward with the national security law, “we can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China”, Pompeo said in a statement.
“The Chinese Communist Party’s decision to eviscerate Hong Kong’s freedoms has forced the Trump administration to re-evaluate its policies toward the territory,” Pompeo said. The US “is forced to take this action to protect US national security”.
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Previously, Hong Kong had enjoyed special privileges that allowed it to import American defence equipment that Beijing did not have. It was also able to import dual-use technologies without the licences required when the same items were sold to mainland China.
“We cannot risk these items falling into the hands of the People’s Liberation Army, whose primary purpose is to uphold the dictatorship of the [Chinese Communist Party] by any means necessary,” he said.
The announcement came after the administration and lawmakers from both parties denounced the new national security law, which threatens to curb free speech and dissent in Hong Kong after a year of political tumult.
In May, the State Department told Congress that Hong Kong was no longer considered autonomous from China, an assessment that could threaten the city’s long-standing special trading status.
Under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed by the US Congress in November, the administration must decide every year whether governance of Hong Kong is suitably distinct from the mainland, which is the prerequisite for the special status to continue.
A revocation of Hong Kong’s trading status would put an end to the preferential economic and trade treatment the city has enjoyed and which has, at least partly, contributed to making it a regional financial and business hub.
The State Department said Monday’s move was a consequence of Beijing’s decision to violate its own commitments under the 1997 Sino-British Joint Declaration.
The actions were meant to “target the regime, not the Chinese people,” Pompeo said. “But given Beijing now treats Hong Kong as ‘one country, one system,’ so must we.”
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