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China warns of sanctions as US ends Hong Kong’s special status

This article is more than 12 months old

BEIJING: US President Donald Trump ordered an end to Hong Kong's special status under US law to punish China for what he called "oppressive actions" against the former British colony, prompting Beijing to warn of retaliatory sanctions.

Citing China's decision to enact a new national security law for Hong Kong, Mr Trump signed an executive order that he said would end the preferential economic treatment for the city. "No special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies," he told a news conference.

He also signed a Bill approved by the US Congress to penalise banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the new law.

"Today I signed legislation, and an executive order to hold China accountable for its aggressive actions against the people of Hong Kong," Mr Trump said. "Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China."

Under the executive order, US property would be blocked of any person determined to be responsible for or complicit in "actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Hong Kong", according to the text of the document released by the White House.

It also directs officials to "revoke licence exceptions for exports to Hong Kong," and includes revoking special treatment for Hong Kong passport holders.

China's Foreign Ministry said yesterday it will impose retaliatory sanctions against US individuals and entities in response to the law targeting banks, though the statement released through state media did not reference the executive order.

"Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs and no foreign country has the right to interfere," the ministry said.

Ending China's special economic status could be a double-edged sword for the US. Hong Kong was the source of the largest bilateral US goods trade surplus last year, at US$26.1 billion (S$36 billion), based on US Census Bureau data.

Analysts say ending Hong Kong's special treatment could prove self-defeating for the US, which has benefited from the territory's business-friendly conditions.

According to the State Department, 85,000 Americans lived in Hong Kong in 2018 and more than 1,300 US companies operate there, including nearly every major US financial firm. The territory is a major destination for US legal and accounting services. - REUTERS

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