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Foreign ministers of Five Eyes group nations discussed HK on call: official

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Foreign ministers from the Five Eyes intelligence sharing group discussed the situation in Hong Kong during a conference call on Wednesday, a Canadian government official told Reuters.

The official declined to elaborate. The Five Eyes groups Canada, the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Separately, Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne tweeted on Wednesday that he discussed with his counterparts from the other countries many issues regarding international peace and security.

Beijing imposed a new national security legislation on Hong Kong last week despite protests from residents of the island and Western nations, setting China’s freest city and a major financial hub on a more authoritarian track.

Since then Canada has suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and said it could boost immigration from the former British colony.

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Red line of Hong Kong security law is not "doom and gloom," city leader says

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s national security law does not spell “doom and gloom”, its leader said on Tuesday, as she tried to calm unease over legislation that critics say could mean the end of freedoms that have underpinned the city’s success as a financial hub.

In an illustration of worries about the law, the video app TikTok said it was preparing to leave the Hong Kong market in response to it, and other tech firms said they were suspending processing Hong Kong government requests for user data.

The sweeping legislation that Beijing imposed on the former British colony punishes what China defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison.

It came into force at the same time it was made public, just before midnight last Tuesday, with police arresting about 300 people in protests the next day – about 10 of them for suspected violations of it.

“Surely, this is not doom and gloom for Hong Kong,” the city’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, told a regular weekly news conference.

“I’m sure, with the passage of time, and efforts and facts are being laid out, confidence will grow in ‘one country, two systems’ and in Hong Kong’s future,” she said.

The legislation has been criticised by Hong Kong democracy activists, as well as countries such as Britain and the United States, for undermining freedoms guaranteed under a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when Hong Kong return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Both Hong Kong and Chinese government officials have said the law, which gives mainland security agencies an enforcement presence in the city for the first time, was vital to plug holes in national security defences, exposed by the city’s failure to pass such legislation itself as required under its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Critics say its aim is to stamp out a pro-democracy movement that brought months of protests, at times violent, to the city last year.

Lam said cases involving a new mainland agency that will be set up in Hong Kong under the law would be “rare”, but nevertheless, national security was a “red line” that should not be crossed.

The legislation was not harsh when compared with that of other countries, she said.

“It is a rather mild law. Its scope is not as broad as that in other countries and even China,” she said.

‘TIME AND FACTS’

Despite such assurances, the law has had a chilling effect.

Pro-democracy activists such as Joshua Wong disbanded their organisations while others have left.

Many shops have removed protest-related products and decorations and public libraries have removed some books seen as supportive of the democracy movement. Canada has suspended an extradition treaty with Hong Kong.

TikTok, a video app owned by China-based ByteDance, which has said in the past its user data is not stored in China, said it will exit the Hong Kong market within days.

Facebook Inc, which also owns WhatsApp and Instagram, Google Inc and Twitter Inc suspended processing government requests for user data in Hong Kong.

But Lam said she had not noticed widespread fears and the law would restore the city’s status as one of the safest in the world after the violent pro-democracy protests last year.

The final power of interpretation of the law lies with authorities in mainland China, where human rights groups have reported arbitrary detentions and disappearances. China has been clamping down on dissent and tightening censorship.

China’s official Procuratorial Daily paper said authorities had launched a special taskforce to ramp up political policing to maintain social stability.

The news came on the day that Xu Zhangrun, a Beijing law professor who has been an outspoken critic of the ruling Communist Party and President Xi Jinping, was taken away by authorities.

Late on Monday, Hong Kong released additional details of the law, saying security forces had overriding authority to enter and search properties for evidence and to stop people from leaving the city.

Lam, asked about media freedom, said if reporters could guarantee they would not breach the new law, she could guarantee they would be allowed to report freely.

“We will do our utmost to explain the provisions in the law and to show to the people of Hong Kong how this law will be implemented,” she said.

“Ultimately, time and facts will tell that this law will not undermine human rights and freedoms.”

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Hong Kong court denies bail to first person charged under new law

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A Hong Kong court denied bail on Monday to the first person charged with inciting separatism and terrorism under the city’s new national security law after he carried a sign saying “Liberate Hong Kong” and drove his motorbike into police.

Tong Ying-kit, 23, was arrested after a video posted online showed him knocking over several officers at a demonstration last Wednesday, less than 24 hours after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on its freest city.

The city’s government has said the protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”, connotes separatism or subversion under the new law, stoking concern over freedom of expression in the former British colony.

Tong, who was unable to appear in court on Friday as he was being treated in hospital for injuries sustained in the incident, appeared in court in a wheelchair.

In rejecting bail, Chief Magistrate So Wai-tak referred to Article 42 of the new law, which states that bail will not be granted if the judge has sufficient grounds to believe the defendant will continue to endanger national security.

The case was adjourned until Oct. 6 and Tong was remanded in custody.

Critics say the law – which punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison – is aimed at crushing dissent and a long-running campaign for greater democracy.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said it is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect the rights and freedoms that underpin the city’s role as a financial hub.

Also on Monday, prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong pleaded not guilty to inciting others to participate in an unlawful assembly during anti-government protests last year.

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Fellow activist Agnes Chow pleaded guilty to a similar charge. Their case has been adjourned to Aug. 5.

Wong and Chow, who were both granted bail last year, led a pro-democracy group called Demosisto that they dissolved hours after Beijing passed the national security law.

The United States, Britain and others have denounced the new legislation, which critics say is the biggest step China has taken to tighten its grip over the city, despite a “one country, two systems” formula meant to preserve its freedoms.

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Canada suspends its extradition treaty with Hong Kong, eyes immigration boost

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada is suspending its extradition treaty with Hong Kong in the wake of new Chinese national security legislation and could boost immigration from the former British colony, top officials said on Friday.

China imposed the legislation this week despite protests from Hong Kongers and Western nations, setting what is a major financial hub on a more authoritarian track.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada would continue to stand up for Hong Kong, which is home to 300,000 Canadians.

Canada will not permit the export of sensitive military items to Hong Kong, he told reporters.

“We are also suspending the Canada-Hong Kong extradition treaty … we are also looking at additional measures, including around immigration,” he said. He did not give details.

Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne condemned the “secretive” way the legislation had been enacted and said Canada had been forced to reassess existing arrangements.

“This is a significant step back in terms of freedom and liberty … we had been hoping Beijing would listen to the international community and reverse course,” he said by phone.

German and British leaders also expressed concerns about the new law.

“(There’s) a deep reflection in many capitals around the world as to how best to deal with China and its assertiveness,” Champagne said.

China’s embassy in Ottawa was not immediately available for comment. The two nations are locked in a dispute which erupted in late 2018 after Canadian police detained Huawei Technologies Co’s chief financial officer on a U.S. warrant.

The new law has prompted a jump in inquiries from families looking to relocate to Canada, immigration lawyers said.

Possible measures Ottawa could take include favoring Hong Kong residents who have family in Canada and allowing more people to apply for a work program that is a step towards gaining citizenship, lawyers say.

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Exclusive: Hong Kong activists discuss 'parliament-in-exile' after China crackdown

LONDON (Reuters) – Hong Kong pro-democracy activists are discussing a plan to create an unofficial parliament-in-exile to keep the flame of democracy alive and send a message to China that freedom cannot be crushed, campaigner Simon Cheng told Reuters.

Hong Kong, a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, was convulsed by months of often violent pro-democracy, anti-China protests last year against Chinese interference in its promised freedoms, the biggest political crisis for Beijing since the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989.

Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets again in defiance of new, sweeping security legislation introduced by China to snuff out dissent.

The law pushes China’s freest city and one of the world’s most glittering financial hubs on to a more authoritarian path. China, which denies interfering in Hong Kong, has warned foreign powers not to meddle in its affairs.

Cheng, a Hong Kong citizen, worked for the British consulate in the territory for almost two years until he fled after he said he was beaten and tortured by China’s secret police. Cheng, who has since been granted asylum by Britain, describes himself as pro-democracy campaigner.

“A shadow parliament can send a very clear signal to Beijing and the Hong Kong authorities that democracy need not be at the mercy of Beijing,” he told Reuters in London. “We want to set up non-official civic groups that surely reflect the views of the Hong Kong people.”

He said that while the idea was still at an early stage, such a parliament-in-exile would support the people of Hong Kong and the pro-democracy movement there. He declined to say where the parliament might sit.

“We are developing an alternative way to fight for democracy,” Cheng said. “We need to be clever to deal with the expanding totalitarianism: they are showing more powerful muscle to suppress so we need to be more subtle and agile.”

He said more and more people were “losing hope that it is effective to go out on to the streets or run for election” to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, or mini-parliament.

“We should stand with the Hong Kong people and support those staying in Hong Kong,” he said.

‘VERY GOOD SIGNAL’

Asked about HSBC’s (HSBA.L) support for the sweeping national security law, Cheng said the British government should speak to senior British capitalists to make them understand the importance of democracy.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered millions of Hong Kong residents the path to British citizenship following China’s imposition of the law, hundreds of thousands of people would come to the United Kingdom, Cheng said.

“The UK has given a very good signal,” Cheng said. “At least hundreds of thousands of people will come.”

Almost 3 million Hong Kong residents are eligible for the so called British National (Overseas) passport. There were 349,881 holders of the passports as of February, Britain said.

“One day we will be back in Hong Kong,” Cheng said.

Hong Kong returned to China 23 years ago with the guarantee of freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including its independent legal system and rights to gather and protest, under a “one country, two systems” formula.

Huge protests calling for democracy, especially on the anniversaries of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen crackdown, were common and brought major streets to a standstill for 79 days in the Umbrella movement of 2014.

The national security law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, will see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allows extradition to the mainland for trial.

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Hong Kong police arrest stabbing suspect after security law protests

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested a 24-year-old man at the city’s airport early on Thursday on suspicion of stabbing an officer during protests against a new national security law imposed by Beijing on the financial hub.

The arrest followed the latest protests on Wednesday in which police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people as demonstrators defied the sweeping security legislation introduced by China to snuff out dissent.

There were no signs of protests on Thursday.

Police posted pictures on Twitter from Wednesday’s disturbances showing on officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects”. The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, the police said.

A police spokesman said the arrested man was surnamed Wong but could not confirm whether he was leaving Hong Kong or working at the airport.

Media, citing unidentified sources, said the suspect was on board a Cathay Pacific flight to London due to depart just before midnight. A witness said three police vehicles drove towards a gate as a Cathay Pacific plane was preparing to take off and about 10 riot police ran up the bridge to the aircraft.

The suspect held an expired British National Overseas passport, a special status which provides a route to citizenship, the source told the Cable TV station.

Cathay Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Former Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying posted on Facebook on Wednesday that a bounty of HK$500,000 ($64,513) would be offered to anyone helping catch the fugitive.

China’s parliament adopted the security law in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms and threatening its judicial independence, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

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Beijing denies the accusation.

Hong Kong and Beijing officials have said the law is vital to plug holes in national security defences exposed by the protests, pointing to the city’s failure to pass such laws by itself as required under its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Another unfulfilled constitutional requirement for Hong Kong is to introduce universal suffrage, the protesters’ main demand.

DIPLOMATIC TENSION

The new law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. It will also see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allows extradition to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

Ten of the arrests made on Wednesday involved violations of the new law, police said, with most of the 360 or so others involved illegal assembly and other offences.

In the latest diplomatic tension over the law, China said Britain would bear all consequences for any offer to Hong Kong citizens of a path to settlement.

China also denounced the United States after the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would penalize banks doing business with Chinese officials who implement the national security law in Hong Kong.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the United States “must stop advancing the bill, let alone sign it or implement” it. [L1N2E82R1]

Democratically ruled and Chinese-claimed Taiwan advised its citizens to avoid unnecessary visits to or transit through Hong Kong, Macau or mainland China. Britain and Canada have also updated their travel advisories for Hong Kong, warning their citizens of detention risks.

Apparently seeking to allay fears that judges for national security cases would be cherry-picked by Hong Kong’s unpopular, pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam, Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma said they would be appointed on the basis of judicial and professional qualities, rather than politics.

Hong Kong’s independent judiciary, one of many freedoms guaranteed when it returned to Chinese rule, has long been considered key to its success as a global financial hub.

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Hong Kong police arrest suspect at airport after officer assaulted in security law protests

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong police arrested a 24-year-old man at the city’s airport in the early hours of Thursday on suspicion of attacking and wounding an officer during protests against a new national security law Beijing imposed on the financial hub.

Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested more than 300 people on Wednesday as protesters took to the streets in defiance of the sweeping security legislation introduced by China to snuff out dissent.

On Wednesday, police posted pictures on Twitter of an officer with a bleeding arm saying he was stabbed by “rioters holding sharp objects”. The suspects fled while bystanders offered no help, police said.

A police spokesman told Reuters the arrested man was surnamed Wong but could not confirm if he was leaving Hong Kong or working at the airport.

Local newspaper Apple Daily, citing unnamed sources, said the suspect was onboard a Cathay Pacific flight to London due to depart just before midnight.

A witness said “around 10 minutes before take-off, three police vehicles drove towards No. 64 gate, outside the Cathay Pacific plane” and around 10 riot police ran up the bridge to the aircraft.

Cathay Pacific did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Police said on Wednesday they had made around 370 arrests for illegal assembly and other offences, with 10 involving violations of the new law.

The legislation punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison. It will also see mainland security agencies in Hong Kong for the first time and allows extradition to the mainland for trial in courts controlled by the Communist Party.

China’s parliament adopted the law in response to protests last year triggered by fears that Beijing was stifling the city’s freedoms, guaranteed by a “one country, two systems” formula agreed when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing denies the accusation.

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UK says China's security law is serious violation of Hong Kong treaty

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom said China’s imposition of a security law on Hong Kong was a “clear and serious” violation of the 1984 Joint Declaration and that London would offer around 3 million residents of the former colony a path to British citizenship.

Hong Kong police fired water cannon and tear gas and arrested nearly 200 people as protesters took to the streets in defiance of sweeping security legislation introduced by China that they say is aimed at snuffing out dissent.

“The enactment and imposition of this national security law constitute a clear and serious breach of the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament on Wednesday.

Johnson said Britain would stand by its pledge to give British National Overseas (BNO) passport-holders in Hong Kong a path to British citizenship, allowing them to settle in the United Kingdom.

Almost 3 million Hong Kong residents are eligible for the passport. There were 349,881 holders of the passports as of February.

Hong Kong’s autonomy was guaranteed under the “one country, two systems” agreement enshrined in the Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by then Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Hong Kong was handed back to China on July 1, 1997, after more than 150 years of British rule – imposed after Britain defeated China in the First Opium War. China had never recognised the “unequal treaties” allowing Britain’s rule of Hong Kong island, the Kowloon peninsula and later its lease of the rural New Territories.

HONG KONG ROW

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain had carefully assessed China’s national security legislation since it was published late on Tuesday.

“It constitutes a clear violation of the autonomy of Hong Kong, and a direct threat to the freedoms of its people, and therefore I’m afraid to say it is a clear and serious violation of the Joint Declaration treaty between the United Kingdom and China,” Raab told Reuters and the BBC.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.

Raab said he would set out shortly the action Britain would take with its international partners.

“China, through this national security legislation, is not living up to its promises to the people of Hong Kong,” Raab said. “We will live up to our promises.”

Asked about how the West should deal with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Raab said:

“Obviously, China is a leading member of the international community. And it is precisely because of that, that we expect it to live up to its international obligations and its international responsibilities. For trust in China’s ability to do that, today has been a big step backwards.”

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China passes sweeping HK security law, heralding authoritarian era

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – Beijing on Tuesday unveiled new national security laws for Hong Kong that will punish crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison, heralding a more authoritarian era for China’s freest city.

As the law came into force, authorities were set to throw a security blanket across the heart of the city’s financial centre on Wednesday after activists vowed to defy a police ban and rally against the measures.

Local media said up to 4,000 officers would be deployed to stamp out any protests.

China’s parliament passed the detailed legislation earlier on Tuesday, giving Beijing sweeping powers and setting the stage for radical changes to the global financial hub’s way of life.

Beijing had kept full details shrouded in secrecy, giving Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people no time to digest the complex legislation before it entered into force at 11.00 pm (1500 GMT) on June 30.

The timing was seen as a symbolic humiliation for Britain, coming just an hour before the 23rd anniversary of when Hong Kong’s last colonial governor, Chris Patten, a staunch critic of the law, tearfully handed back Hong Kong to Chinese rule.

Amid fears the law will crush the city’s freedoms, prominent activist Joshua Wong’s Demosisto and other pro-democracy groups said they would dissolve.

“The punitive elements of the law are stupefying,” Simon Young, a law professor at the University of Hong Kong’s law school and a barrister, told Reuters.

“Let us hope no one tries to test this law, for the consequences to the individual and the legal system will be irreparable.”

The legislation pushes Beijing further along a collision course with the United States, Britain and other Western governments, which have said it erodes the high degree of autonomy the city was granted at its July 1, 1997, handover.

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Britain and some two dozen Western countries urged China to reconsider the law, saying Beijing must preserve the right to assembly and free press.

The United States condemned the legislation as a violation of Beijing’s international commitments and vowed to go on acting “against those who smothered Hong Kong’s freedom and autonomy.”

Washington, already in dispute with China over trade, the South China Sea and the coronavirus, began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law on Monday, halting defence exports and restricting technology access.

China, which has rejected criticism of the law by Britain, the European Union, Japan, Taiwan and others, said it would retaliate.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, in a video message to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, urged the international community to “respect our country’s right to safeguard national security”.

She said the law would not undermine the city’s autonomy or its independent judiciary.

Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong have repeatedly said the legislation is aimed at a few “troublemakers” and will not affect rights and freedoms, nor investor interests.

As the law was passed in Beijing, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong held a drill which included exercises to stop suspicious vessels and arrest fugitives, according to the Weibo social media account of state-run CCTV’s military channel.

‘OVERPOWERING’

In their most severe form, crimes will be punishable with life in prison. Punishments otherwise largely go up to 10 years. Properties related to crimes could be frozen or confiscated.

The security legislation will supersede existing Hong Kong laws where there is a conflict and mainland Chinese authorities could exercise jurisdiction over some major cases.

Interpretation powers belong to the Chinese parliament’s top decision-making body.

Judges for security cases will be appointed by the city’s chief executive.

According to the law, a new national security agency will be set up for the first time in Hong Kong and will not be under the jurisdiction of the local government. Authorities can carry out surveillance and wire-tap people suspected of endangering national security, it said.

Those asking foreign countries to sanction, blockade or take other hostile action against Hong Kong or China could be guilty of colluding with foreign forces.

Authorities shall take necessary measures to strengthen the management and servicing of foreign countries’ and international organisations’ branches in Hong Kong, as well as foreign media and NGOs in the city, the law says.

“We can all start again,” pro-Beijing heavyweight Maria Tam, a member of China’s National People’s Congress, told reporters.

Activists and pro-democracy politicians said they would defy a police ban on a rally on the handover anniversary on Wednesday.

“We will never accept the passing of the law, even though it is so overpowering,” said Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai.

A majority in Hong Kong opposes the legislation, a poll conducted for Reuters this month showed, but support for the protests has fallen to only a slim majority.

Dozens of supporters of Beijing popped champagne corks and waved Chinese flags in celebration in front of government headquarters.

“I’m very happy,” said one elderly man, surnamed Lee.

“This will leave anti-China spies and people who brought chaos to Hong Kong with nowhere to go.”

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U.S. starts paring back Hong Kong's special status due to security law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law on Monday, halting defense exports and restricting the territory’s access to high technology products as China prepares new Hong Kong security legislation.

The Commerce Department said it was suspending “preferential treatment to Hong Kong over China, including the availability of export license exceptions,” adding that further actions to eliminate Hong Kong’s privileged status were being evaluated.

“We urge Beijing to immediately reverse course and fulfill the promises it has made to the people of Hong Kong and the world,” it said.

The U.S. moves come as the top decision-making body of China’s parliament deliberates a draft national security law for Hong Kong that pro-democracy activists fear will be used to eliminate dissent and tighten Beijing’s control.

The parliament’s standing committee has been widely expected to pass the bill into law before its current meeting ends on Tuesday.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s decision to eviscerate Hong Kong’s freedoms has forced the Trump administration to re-evaluate its policies toward the territory,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

He said effective Monday, Washington was ending exports of defense equipment to Hong Kong and would take steps to end export of dual-use technologies to the territory. Such technologies have commercial and military uses.

“The United States is forced to take this action to protect U.S. national security. We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China,” Pompeo said.

Kurt Tong, a former U.S. consul general in Hong Kong, told Reuters the U.S. move would not cover a large amount of U.S.-Hong Kong trade as the territory was not a major manufacturing center and its economy was almost entirely services.

He also noted that “‘suspend’ is different from ‘terminate’ and is consistent with the conditionality implied.”

China’s Washington embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump responded to China’s plans for the security law by saying he was initiating a process to eliminate the special economic treatment that has allowed Hong Kong to remain a global financial center since its handover by Britain in 1997.

Trump stopped short of calling for an immediate end to privileges, but said the moves would affect the full range of U.S. agreements with Hong Kong, from an extradition treaty to export controls on dual-use technologies and more “with few exceptions.”

The U.S. announcements come at a time of intensified U.S. rhetoric against Beijing as Trump campaigns for re-election. Opinion polls have shown voters increasingly embittered toward China, especially over the coronavirus, which began there.

Last week, Pompeo said Washington was imposing visa restrictions on current and former officials of China’s ruling Communist Party believed responsible for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Beijing responded on Monday by saying it would impose visa restrictions on U.S. individuals with “egregious conduct” on Hong Kong-related issues.

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

According to the State Department, 85,000 U.S. citizens lived in Hong Kong in 2018 and more than 1,300 U.S. companies operate there, including nearly every major U.S. financial firm.

The territory is a major destination for U.S. legal and accounting services. In 2018 the largest U.S. bilateral trade-in-goods surplus was with Hong Kong at $31.1 billion.

In 2018, $432.7 million of goods were shipped to Hong Kong under Commerce Department exceptions, mostly relating to encryption, software and technology.

Last year, the State Department approved approximately $2.4 million worth of controlled defense articles and services to Hong Kong government authorities, of which approximately $1.4 million worth was shipped.

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