Trump signs bill imposing sanctions on China over Hong Kong

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President Trump said Tuesday that he has signed legislation that would impose mandatory sanctions on individuals and businesses that assist China in restricting Hong Kong’s autonomy.

Trump also announced in a press conference in the White House Rose Garden that he signed an executive order declaring the United States would treat Hong Kong the same as mainland China.

The president said he took the actions to “hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong.” 

The effort to punish China over its treatment of Hong Kong was triggered by its passage of a controversial national security law that offers Beijing a high degree of power over the semi-autonomous territory.

The legislation signed by Trump, formally known as the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, was sponsored by Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and approved by the House and Senate earlier this month.

It mandates sanctions on entities that violate China’s obligations to Hong Kong under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law and sanctions banks doing business with those entities. The joint declaration, signed between the British and Chinese in 1984, was meant to guarantee Hong Kong’s autonomy until 2047. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in May said the U.S. could no longer certify that Hong Kong was autonomous from China.

“This law gives my administration powerful new tools to hold responsible the individuals and the entities involved in extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom,” Trump said during the beginning of his remarks on Tuesday.

“We’ve all watched what happened. Not a good situation. 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 added.

The text of the executive order described by Trump was released by the White House later Tuesday evening. The order declares it “the policy of the United States to suspend or eliminate different and preferential treatment for Hong Kong to the extent permitted by law and in the national security, foreign policy, and economic interest of the United States.” It directs the heads of executive agencies and departments to take all appropriate actions to execute that policy within 15 days of the order. 

Trump said in May that he had directed his administration to begin rolling back policy exemptions offering Hong Kong a special status.

On Tuesday, Trump said that Hong Kong would no longer be granted special privileges or special economic treatment and that the U.S. would restrict its access to exports of sensitive technologies.

The president used his remarks to sharply criticize China over its handling of the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 3.4 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 130,000. Trump has endured tremendous scrutiny over his administration’s response to the virus.

Trump said China should have “stopped” the disease from spreading to the United States touted his decision to restrict air travel from China in February, while claiming his actions had saved “millions” of lives.

“No administration has been tougher on China than this administration,” Trump said, seeking to contrast his record on China with that of presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

– Laura Kelly contributed.

Updated: 9:50 p.m.

Tags Chris Van Hollen Donald Trump Hong Kong security law Joe Biden Mike Pompeo Pat Toomey Politics of Hong Kong

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