Beijing/Washington – China says it will impose sanctions in retaliation for United States legislation ending Hong Kong’s special trade status with the U.S.
China firmly opposes and strongly condemns the U.S. signing on Tuesday of the Hong Kong Autonomy Act into law, a statement on the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s website said on Wednesday.
China will impose sanctions on U.S. personnel and entities, the statement added.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed legislation that will impose sanctions on Chinese persons and entities that are involved in Beijing’s actions to remove autonomy from Hong Kong.
Trump also said he signed an executive order to end the special privileges of Hong Kong, in a continuation of the president’s campaign against Beijing, which he accuses of failing to adequately address the coronavirus outbreak.
The president in May announced his move to revoke Hong Kong’s special status, citing China’s response to the pandemic.
The legislation received bipartisan support in both the Senate and House of Representatives earlier this year.
Congress passed the act in response to Beijing imposing a national security law on Hong Kong, which critics fear intends to quash dissent in the financial hub, which has been roiled by protests for the past year.
In a winding campaign style speech from the White House, Trump blasted former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for failing to properly address China under their leadership.
A status change will be a major blow to Hong Kong’s trading relationship with the U.S. and the territory’s position as a key Asian financial centre, which also serves as a port for Beijing’s financial and commercial transactions with other countries.
On Wednesday, the president of Hong Kong’s legislative council (LegCo) rejected calls for lawmakers to debate the US’ decision.
A lawmaker for Civic Passion, Cheng Chung Tai, told LegCo President Andrew Leung that the move has affected the social, economic and livelihood interests of Hong Kong, during Wednesday’s parliamentary session.
But Leung said there was no need to debate the matter since Trump had already signed the executive order, and told lawmakers to follow up through `different channels’ in what was the final meeting of LegCo’s current session. The chamber will resume on Aug 25.
The chairwoman of New People’s Party, Regina Ip, said Washington’s decision was barbaric and unreasonable.
Ip said Hong Kongers’ access to U.S. visas would be affected but said they would not want to go there now because of the Covid-19 epidemic and racial discrimination in the country.
While admitting the move would affect Hong Kong’s international status, Ip said that its financial status wouldn’t be affected.
Beijing gazetted the new national security act into an annex of Hong Kong’s Basic Law on June 30, a four-part law targeting secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.
Just over a week later, amid international outcry over the new law, the Chief Executive Carrie Lam held an inauguration ceremony to usher in the Office for Safeguarding National Security, which is operating temporarily from the Metropark Hotel.