US ends arms exports, China restricts visas in Hong Kong row
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: October 16, 2020 - 7:00pm

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

October 16, 2020 - 7:00pm

A top Chinese diplomat warns Canada against granting asylum to Hong Kong democracy protesters, adding that doing so could jeopardize the "health and safety" of Canadians living in the southern Chinese financial hub.

The remarks by Cong Peiwu, Beijing's Ottawa envoy, prompted a rebuke from Canada's foreign minister, further escalating tensions between the two countries.

Cong was responding to reports that a Hong Kong couple who took part in last year's huge and sometimes violent protests had been granted refugee status. — AFP

October 1, 2020 - 4:23pm

Hong Kong's leader Thursday hailed her city's "return to peace" after China imposed a security law that helped suppress a pro-democracy movement, as just a handful of people defied a heavy police presence and protested during National Day celebrations.

The People's Republic of China celebrates its founding on October 1 with a holiday and carefully choreographed festivities.

But in Hong Kong, it has become a day of grievance for those worried about authoritarian Beijing's intensifying crackdown against its opponents.

Protest has been effectively outlawed for most of this year and Beijing also imposed a strict national security law on the semi-autonomous business hub in June. — AFP

September 24, 2020 - 7:56pm

The European Union on Thursday criticised the arrest of prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong, saying it was "troubling" and undermined trust in China.

The 23-year-old's detention for for "unlawful assembly" over a 2019 demonstration comes after China imposed a sweeping new national security law on Hong Kong in late June.

"The arrest of Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong on 24 September is the latest in a troubling series of arrests of pro-democracy activists since the summer," an EU spokesperson said, calling for "very careful scrutiny" by the judiciary.

"Developments in Hong Kong call into question China's will to uphold its international commitments, undermine trust and impact EU-China relations."

The EU has repeatedly voiced concern at the new Hong Kong security law, which critics say erodes important freedoms in the city. — AFP

September 16, 2020 - 6:24pm

A Swiss photographer who closed a door on a Chinese mainlander moments before he was assaulted during last year's Hong Kong democracy protests should not be held responsible for the attack, his lawyers argued Wednesday.

Marc Progin, a long-time Hong Kong resident, is facing up to a year in jail for "aiding and abetting public disorder" over the incident in which JP Morgan employee Lin Nan was punched.

Footage of Progin closing the door moments before a masked man assaulted Lin went viral and caused widespread anger in mainland China. 

Prosecutors said Progin, 75, deliberately shut a door leading to JP Morgan's regional headquarters as an argument broke out between a crowd of pro-democracy supporters and Lin last October. 

They argued his actions effectively enabled the assault on Lin and that Progin therefore took part in the unfolding public disorder. 

Defense lawyers said Progin was simply doing his job and that he closed the door to get a better angle to capture the argument through his lens.

Defense counsel Michael Delaney said Progin had no intention to "stop, block or obstruct" Lin and that the behavior of the crowd had nothing to do with Progin. — AFP

September 15, 2020 - 3:18pm

Hong Kong activists shouted anti-government slogans outside court on Tuesday as more than two dozen high profile democracy campaigners appeared over a banned vigil to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies on June 4 to mark the anniversary of Beijing's deadly suppression of students pushing for democracy.

The annual vigil has been held in Hong Kong for the last three decades and usually attracts huge crowds, but this year's gathering was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures — even though local transmission had largely been halted.

The group of defendants represents a broad section of the pro-democracy movement, from 72-year-old media mogul Jimmy Lai to younger campaigners such as Joshua Wong. — AFP

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