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Top US diplomat tells Congress Hong Kong not autonomous

Mike Pompeo's determination paves way for changes to territory's treatment under US law

Michael Hernandez   | 27.05.2020
Top US diplomat tells Congress Hong Kong not autonomous


US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified to Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from mainland China, opening the door to changes of its treatment under American law. 

Pompeo cited in particular Beijing's intention to apply national security legislation to Hong Kong, calling the National People’s Congress's (NPC) decision "disastrous" and one in a line "of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms and China’s own promises to the Hong Kong people."

"After careful study of developments over the reporting period, I certified to Congress today that Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997," Pompeo said in a statement. 

He was referring to the month when Hong Kong was formally transferred to China by the British with the guarantee that it remain semi-autonomous under a "one country, two systems" principle. 

Pompeo is required under the 1992 Hong Kong Policy Act to certify annually the territory's autonomy to Congress to allow Washington to continue to apply laws and treaties to Hong Kong that were in force during British control, including its preferential trade and financial status. 

"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground," Pompeo said. 

A draft decision on establishing a legal system and enforcement mechanisms for Hong Kong was submitted to China’s NPC for deliberation Friday. Pro-democracy activists and protesters have maintain the laws would be used to ensure dissent is all but quashed. 

The Chinese government's plan to impose the new national security laws prompted thousands to flood Hong Kong's streets since Sunday.

Protests have also been galvanized by the Hong Kong legislature's decision to take up a controversial law that would ban insults to China's national anthem, and enforce prison time for those convicted of doing so. A vote on the proposal is expected next week following four days of debate. 

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