It was pretty clear this was coming since Secretary Pompeo announced Wednesday that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from China. Today President Trump gave a short speech at the White House saying he was moving to eliminate policy exemptions that give Hong Kong special treatment. President Trump also announced that he was cutting funding for the WHO and would redirect that money elsewhere.
“China claims it is protecting national security,” Trump said. He continued, “But the truth is that Hong Kong was secure and prosperous as a free society. Beijing’s decision reverses all of that. It extends the reach of China’s invasive state security apparatus into what was formerly a bastion of liberty.” He added that it was clear, “Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to warrant the special treatment that we have afforded the territories since the handover.”
“China has replaced this promised formula of ‘one country, two systems’ with ‘one country, one system.’ Therefore I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment.”
He added that the State Department’s travel advisory for Hong Kong would also be updated to reflect the added possibility of surveillance and interference by Chinese state security forces. Trump also said there would be additional sanctions placed on Chinese individuals responsible for “smothering Hong Kong’s freedom.”
The NY Times reports that it’s still not clear if this is going to be a wholesale repeal of Hong Kong’s special status or more of a piecemeal approach:
It was unclear from Mr. Trump’s announcement whether he was issuing a formal executive order to end the special relationship with Hong Kong entirely. The administration can take piecemeal actions — for example, imposing the same tariffs on goods from Hong Kong that the United States does on products from mainland China — before taking that final, drastic step.
This is probably the most drastic action Trump can take. It will be a significant financial blow to China and, unfortunately, also to U.S. companies doing business there. If anything will get China to think twice about what it’s doing this is probably it. But it’s not clear the EU is going to follow our lead. In fact, it sounds like they are going to make some noise and do nothing.
The European Union criticized China on Friday for asserting more control over Hong Kong and suggested the move would have an impact on China-EU relations, but the 27-nation bloc ruled out taking any action against its major trading partner…
“We express our grave concern at the steps taken by China,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after chairing a video meeting of the foreign ministers. “This risks to seriously undermine the ‘one country, two systems’ principle and the high degree of autonomy of the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong.”…
Asked what action the EU might be prepared to take and whether sanctions were discussed, Borrell said “there was only one country that made a reference to the issue of sanctions. I don’t think that sanctions are the way to resolve our problems with China.”
He said the bloc “will continue trying to put pressure on the Chinese authorities” to make them aware that the clampdown on Hong Kong “will affect the way we deal with some of the issues of mutual interest, but there is nothing more on the agenda.”
In short, we may be going it alone which makes it far less likely that China will back off violating it’s agreement to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy until 2047. But this action still seems better than the alternative, which is to let China make a mockery of Hong Kong’s independence and do nothing.
Earlier in the speech, President Trump also announced he was cutting funds from the World Health Organization. “Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” he said.