Sec. Pompeo: Hong Kong is no longer autonomous (as 360 protesters are arrested) (Update)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress today that in light of the new security law being implemented in China, Hong Kong is no longer an autonomous region.

“No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“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. But sound policy making requires a recognition of reality,” Pompeo said. “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.”

Since the British handover of Hong Kong in 1997, the island has been semi-independent under the “one country, two systems” scheme. China promised that independence would continue for at least 50 years. Sec. Pompeo is effectively saying that is over, i.e. that the security law makes this one country, one system. The immediate significance here, which Pompeo has been hinting at since last week, is that Hong Kong could lose it’s special trading status with the United States:

Hong Kong has so far been exempted from the punishing tariffs on exports to the U.S. that the Trump administration has imposed on China as part of President Donald Trump’s multiyear trade war with the country.

The Trump administration is signaling to Beijing that this course of action could be very costly for China. But at least so far that signal doesn’t seem to be making any difference. Today, police in Hong Kong arrested 360 protesters.

More than 360 people were arrested on a day of running protests across Hong Kong as thousands took to the streets to oppose two contentious new laws concerning Chinese sovereignty, and riot police worked late into the night battling radicals who blocked roads and set fires.

Young pupils in school uniform were among those taken away in pre-emptive strikes on banned gatherings as police, out in force to head off wider chaos, arrested anti-government protesters for offences including unlawful assembly and possession of weapons…

One protester, Kitty Fung, 17, lamented the difficulties in continuing the fight for democracy in Hong Kong given the police presence and mass arrests.

“It seems it is no longer possible for us to do anything, unlike before,” she said. “I feel like we have given a lot but have achieved nothing.”

No doubt China is thrilled to see the protesters so dispirited. That was the intent and for now it seems to be working. Here’s some video of the protests taking place today.

Update: The Chinese spokesman who claimed the coronavirus might have originated in the United States is making threats today.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian issued the warning on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump said his administration would “do something” about the situation in Hong Kong this week in response to Beijing’s plans for a new national security law for the city.

Zhao said that the legislation for a “national security law for the Hong Kong special administrative region is purely China’s internal affair, and we brook no foreign interference”.

“As to the erroneous foreign interference in Hong Kong affairs, we will take necessary measures to fight back,” he said.

China’s National Assembly will vote/rubber-stamp the new security law by Thursday.