(Update 1: new headline, adds China’s response in pars 1-7, minor edits throughout)
Beijing/Washington DC, Jul 15 (EFE).- The Chinese government on Wednesday described the United States’ new Hong Kong Autonomy Act as a serious interference in China’s internal affairs and threatened retaliation.
Donald Trump signed the Act, which allows for new sanctions on those who crack down on rights in the semi-autonomous city, on Tuesday.
China will make necessary responses to protect its legitimate interests, and impose sanctions on relevant personnel and entities of the US, the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement published on its website Wednesday.
The ministry urged the US to rectify its mistakes, refrain from implementing the Act and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs, including those of Hong Kong.
The statement warned that if the US continued to take such actions, China would not hesitate to respond.
Beijing sees the Hong Kong Autonomy Act as an attempt by the US to obstruct the implementation of the Hong Kong national security law, a controversial measure imposed by Beijing on the semi-autonomous city, which punishes with life in prison any activities that, in the eyes of the Chinese government, pose a threat to China’s security and territorial integrity.
However, lawyers, activists, journalists and much of Hong Kong society have expressed their opposition to the legislation. They fear it will end the freedoms enjoyed by the former British colony and which, under the 1984 Sino-British Declaration, should be maintained until at least 2047.
On Tuesday at a press conference in the White House’s Rose Garden, Trump said he now has “powerful new tools to hold responsible the individuals in the entities involved in extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom.”
He also announced that he signed an order to end preferential economic and commercial treatment for Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” Trump said. “No special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies.”
“In addition to that, as you know, we are placing massive tariffs and have placed very large tariffs on China,” he added.
The moves are part of Washington’s retaliation for Beijing passing the national security law, which Trump sees as oppression of the former British colony that enjoys freedoms not seen on mainland China.
“Their freedom has been taken away, their rights have been taken away and with it goes Hong Kong in my opinion, because it will no longer be able to compete with free markets,” he said.
“A lot of people will be leaving Hong Kong, I suspect, and we are going to do a lot more business because of it because we just lost one competitor.”
Trump’s announcement came hours after China sanctioned on the US-based arms company Lockheed Martin over a Taiwan arms deal amid the US’ escalating tensions with Beijing over Hong Kong, the COVID-19 pandemic and other issues.
Meanwhile the New York Times announced that it would relocate its Hong Kong-based digital section to Seoul, South Korea, over the next year citing uncertainty around the national security law and challenges securing work permits in the territory, which although commonplace in China, in the past has not been an issue in the former British colony. EFE