Seeking to punish China, US begins to revoke Hong Kong trade privileges

US President Donald Trump meets with China’s President Xi Jinping at the G20 leaders summit in Japan, in this June 29, 2019 picture. — Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday ordered his administration to begin to revoke Hong Kong’s special trade status with the United States.

The US move, which aims to punish China, is in response to a controversial new security law passed by China’s parliament that could end Hong Kong's unique status and make it a crime to undermine Beijing's authority in the territory.

It is believed to be the strongest action the Trump administration has so far taken against China’s intervention in Hong Kong.

“I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment,” Trump said.

“My announcement today will affect the full range of agreements that we have with Hong Kong, from our extradition treaty, to our export controls and technologies,” Trump said.

“We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China.”

Trump said sanctions would be imposed on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who were believed by Washington to be involved in eroding the territory's autonomy. He did not outline what form these sanctions would take.

He added that the State Department would revise its travel advisory for Hong Kong in light of "increased danger of surveillance" from China.

The president also said the US would suspend the entry of foreign nationals from China identified by the US as potential security risks. There are fears that this could affect thousands of graduate students.

Trump, however, did not provide details about precisely which steps would be taken or in what order, and a White House spokesman declined to comment when a TV reporter asked for additional clarification on the expected moves. — Agencies