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U.S. shifts Hong Kong policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has notified Congress that the Trump administration no longer regards Hong Kong as autonomous from mainland China, setting the stage for the U.S. to withdraw the former British colony’s preferential trade and financial status it has enjoyed since it reverted to Chinese rule 23 years ago.

The move does not carry any immediate penalties, which would have to be decided by President Donald Trump in consultation with Congress. But the administration sees it as putting China on notice that Hong Kong’s perks are in jeopardy.

“Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997,” Pompeo said in a statement Wednesday.

The notice brings the future of Hong Kong squarely into the administration’s numerous battles with China that have put the world’s two largest economies at odds.

Relations have worsened over U.S. allegations that Chinese authorities sought to cover up the coronavirus pandemic and pressured the World Health Organization from taking early action to combat it. That has added to long-standing tensions over trade, human rights, religious freedom and the status of Taiwan.

Pompeo’s certification comes amid calls in Congress and elsewhere for the U.S. and others to react against Beijing’s move to impose Chinese national security laws over the territory.

“Beijing’s disastrous decision is only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms and China’s own promises to the Hong Kong people,” Pompeo said. He said “no reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.”

After sending the notification to Capitol Hill, Pompeo spoke by phone with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. The two men agreed China “must honor its commitments and obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

“Both agreed the international community must support the people of Hong Kong and respond to Beijing’s continued erosions of Hong Kong’s autonomy,” the State Department said in a statement about the call.

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