US to reevaluate policies towards HK, ends defence exports

Pompeo says the US can no longer distinguish between export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to the mainland. (AP pic)

WASHINGTON: The US began eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under US law on Monday, halting defence exports and restricting the territory’s access to high technology products as China prepares new Hong Kong security legislation.

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

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

He said the US, effective Monday, was ending exports of defence equipment to Hong Kong and will also take steps to end the export of dual-use technologies to the territory.

Dual-use technologies have both commercial and military uses.

Commerce Department regulations that gave preferential treatment to Hong Kong over China, including the availability of export license exceptions, were also suspended, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said after Pompeo’s announcement.

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

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

The announcements come at a time of intensified US rhetoric against Beijing as President Donald Trump campaigns for re-election.

Opinion polls have shown voters increasingly embittered toward China, especially over the coronavirus, which began there.