A government advertisement (C) promoting China’s planned national security law is displayed on the city hall building in Hong Kong on June 29, 2020.
AFP/Isaac Lawrence
US ends arms exports, China restricts visas in Hong Kong row
Shaun Tandon (Agence France-Presse) - June 30, 2020 - 7:46am

WASHINGTON, United States — The United States on Monday ended sensitive defense exports to Hong Kong, further ramping up pressure in a row over the financial capital's autonomy from China.

The US announced the decision hours after China said it would curb visas to some Americans heading to Hong Kong, itself a tit-for-tat response to a US move.

The United States has been leading a global uproar over a national security law expected to be shortly approved by China, which Hong Kong activists say would destroy the city's freedoms.

"We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China," Pompeo said in a statement.

"We cannot risk these items falling into the hands of the People's Liberation Army, whose primary purpose is to uphold the dictatorship of the CCP by any means necessary," he said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

The direct impact will be modest. The State Department last year approved $2.4 million in defense sales to Hong Kong, of which $1.4 million worth were actually sent, including firearms and ammunition for law enforcement, according to official figures.

The Commerce Department simultaneously said it was revoking its special status for Hong Kong.

It will now treat the financial hub the same as China for so-called dual-use exports that have both military and civilian applications — and which are highly restricted when sought by Beijing.

China promised autonomy for Hong Kong before Britain returned the territory in 1997 but wants no repeat of massive and sometimes destructive protests that rocked the territory last year.

"It gives us no pleasure to take this action, which is a direct consequence of Beijing's decision to violate its own commitments under the UN-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration," Pompeo said.

Tit-for-tat visa curbs

President Donald Trump's administration has already declared that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous in US eyes and has been rolling out a series of measures in response.

On Friday, the State Department said it was restricting visas for an unspecified number of Chinese officials seen as responsible for infringing on the autonomy of the Asian financial hub.

In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday that the US "scheme... to obstruct the passage of the Hong Kong national security law will never prevail."

"To target the US's above wrongful actions, China has decided to impose visa restrictions against American individuals who have behaved egregiously on matters concerning Hong Kong," Zhao said.

China's top lawmaking committee is expected to adopt the law, already approved by Beijing's rubber-stamp parliament, during sessions that end on Tuesday.

While outlawing acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces, the legislation will allow China's security agencies to set up shop publicly in the city for the first time.

Britain, the European Union and the United Nations rights watchdog have all voiced fears the law could be used to stifle criticism of Beijing, which uses similar laws on the authoritarian mainland to crush dissent.

In Washington, some US lawmakers fear that Trump will take primarily symbolic action on Hong Kong, preferring to prioritize trade concerns that could affect his re-election campaign.

Last week, the US Senate unanimously approved a bill that would impose mandatory economic sanctions against Chinese officials, Hong Kong police -- and banks that work with them -- if they are identified as hurting the city's autonomous status. 

Zhao, the foreign ministry spokesman, warned that the US "should not review, advance or implement relevant negative bills concerning Hong Kong, even less impose so-called sanctions on China, otherwise China will firmly take strong countermeasures."

Hong Kong was upended by seven straight months of protests last year, initially sparked by an eventually abandoned plan to allow extraditions to the mainland. 

But they soon morphed into a popular revolt against Beijing's rule and widespread calls for democracy. — with Laurie Chen in Beijing

CHINA HONG KONG UNITED STATES
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: July 11, 2020 - 3:30pm

Millions march in Hong Kong in a powerful rebuke of an extradition law feared to expose them to China's capricious justice system.

July 11, 2020 - 3:30pm

Hong Kong police have raided the office of a prominent opinion pollster that was helping the city's pro-democracy opposition to conduct a primary election, a director of the group says Saturday.

The overnight move came days after China imposed a sweeping new national security law on the financial hub after months of civil unrest last year. — AFP

July 8, 2020 - 12:52pm

China's opening of a new office allowing its intelligence agents to operate openly in Hong Kong for the first time is a "historic moment" that will help safeguard national security, the city's leader says.

"Today's unveiling ceremony is a historic moment because we are witnessing another milestone in the establishment of a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for maintaining national security in Hong Kong," Chief Executive Carrie Lam says at a speech during an inauguration ceremony for the new office.

July 8, 2020 - 10:42am

China's opening of a new office allowing its intelligence agents to operate openly in Hong Kong for the first time is a "historic moment" that will help safeguard national security, the city's leader said Wednesday.

"Today's unveiling ceremony is a historic moment because we are witnessing another milestone in the establishment of a sound legal system and enforcement mechanism for maintaining national security in Hong Kong," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a speech during an inauguration ceremony for the new office. — AFP

July 8, 2020 - 8:08am

China opens a new office for its security agents to operate publicly in Hong Kong for the first time, state media says.

"The Office for Safeguarding National Security of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was inaugurated here on Wednesday morning," the Xinhua news agency says. — AFP

July 6, 2020 - 8:15pm

The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the semi-autonomous city, activist Joshua Wong said Monday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy.

Wong, one of the city's most prominent young activists, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow campaigners were being prosecuted for involvement in civil unrest which rocked Hong Kong last year.

China enacted the security law for the restless city last week, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. — AFP

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