Washington: US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to end the preferential economic treatment for Hong Kong after China imposed a controversial national security law in the Asian trading hub to curb autonomy and democratic freedoms.
The Trump administration has been openly critical of Beijing’s sweeping national security law aimed at limiting Hong Kong’s autonomy and curb political dissent against the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Trump said he also signed legislation to sanction Chinese officials responsible for cracking down on political dissent in Hong Kong.
“Today, I signed legislation and an executive order to hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said at a White House press conference on Tuesday.
The president also said he signed an executive order ending US preferential treatment for Hong Kong, a former British territory handed over to China in 1997.
“Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China. No special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies. In addition to that, as you know, we are placing massive tariffs and have placed very large tariffs on China.
“First time this has ever happened to China, billions of dollars have been paid to the US, of which I have given quite a bit to the farmers and ranchers of our country because they were targeted, and that has been going on for three years,” he said.
“This was the first time anybody did anything like that and prior to the plague pouring in from China, they were having the worst year economically in 67 years,” Trump said.
“I do not want them to have a bad year. I want them to have a good year, but they were taking advantage of the US for years and that is stopping. But then the virus came in and the world is a different place, but we are now getting back and one of the reasons the market is doing so — it is almost at the point that it was at prior to the plague,” Trump said.
“It is a great thing, it is an amazing thing what our people have done and what they have endured,” he said.
Trump also signed the Hong Kong Autonomy Act.
“The Hong Kong Autonomy Act was passed unanimously by the Congress,” he said, adding that the law gives his administration powerful new tools to hold responsible the individuals in the entities involved in extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom.
“We have all watched what happened, not a good situation. Their freedom has been taken away, their rights have been taken away and with it goes Hong Kong in my opinion, because it will no longer be able to compete with free markets.
“A lot of people will be leaving Hong Kong, I suspect, and we are going to do a lot more business because of it because we just lost one competitor,” he said.
He said America has lost a competitor it incentivised to take a lot of business and do well.
“We gave them a lot of business by doing what we did. We gave them things that nobody else had the right to do and that gave them a big edge over other markets, and because of that edge, they have some really historic business, tremendous business, far bigger than anybody would have thought years ago when we did this gift. It was really a gift to freedom,” Trump said.
Trump said no administration has been tougher on China than his administration.
“We imposed historic tariffs, we stood up to China’s intellectual property theft at a level that nobody has ever come close to,” he said, while noting that the US has acted against Chinese technology and telecom providers.
Trump said America has convinced many countries not to use Chinese telecom giant Huawei because “it is a big security risk”.
“I talked many countries out of using it. If they want to do business with us, they cannot use it,” he said.
The UK on Tuesday banned Huawei from its 5G telecom network, reversing an earlier decision to allow the Chinese tech giant a limited role in building the country’s super-fast wireless infrastructure.
The US placed Huawei on a trade blacklist last year over national security concerns and has led an international campaign to convince allies to exclude Huawei from their 5G networks.
In his lengthy opening remarks, Trump alleged that his predecessors “were really a puppet” of China.
“Make no mistake, we hold China fully responsible for concealing the virus and unleashing it upon the world. Could have stopped it, they should have stopped it,” he said.
The US blames China for spreading the coronavirus in the world by failing to provide information about it on time. China has denied these allegations.
China, Trump alleged, has taken out hundreds of billions of dollars a year from the US.
“We rebuilt China, gave them all the credit in the world. I do not give the credit for the people that used to stand here because they allowed this to happen where hundreds of billions of dollars were taken out of the US Treasury in order to rebuild China.
Trump alleged that his Democratic challenger, former vice president Joe Biden, supported China’s entry into the World Trade Organization, one of the greatest geopolitical and economic disasters in world history.
Trump alleged that Biden personally led the effort to give China the permanent most-favoured-nation status, which is a tremendous advantage for a country to have.
“A few countries have it, but the US does not have it, never did, probably never even asked for it because they did not know what they were doing,” Trump said.