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Trump ends preferential treatment for Hong Kong

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he has signed legislation and an executive order to hold China “accountable” for the national security law it imposed on Hong Kong.

At a Rose Garden news conference, Trump said he is ending Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a punishment against China for what he called its “oppressive” actions against the people of Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Autonomy Act “gives my administration powerful new tools to hold responsible the individuals and the entities involved in extinguishing Hong Kong’s freedom,” Trump said. 

It will end the preferential trade treatment Hong Kong has received for years — allowing “no special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies,” Trump told reporters.

“Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” he said.

According to a White House fact sheet, the executive order includes revoking special treatment for Hong Kong passport holders.

Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who had lunch together at the White House on Tuesday, have blamed China for the spread of the coronavirus pandemic — which China denies — and have criticized Beijing for its Hong Kong crackdown.

Possible sanctions 

The former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a law protecting freedoms of speech, assembly and the press until 2047.

The legislation Trump signed calls for sanctions on Chinese officials and others who help violate Hong Kong’s autonomy, and financial institutions that do business with those found to have participated in any crackdown on the city.

WATCH | Trump, Biden criticize each other on China policies, coronavirus response:

Donald Trump accused his Democratic rival Joe Biden of being soft on China as the president announced an executive order that he said will hold Beijing accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong. Earlier Tuesday, Biden attacked Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, accusing the president of presenting Americans with a ‘false choice’ between protecting their health and protecting the economy. 1:45

Trump faces a tough battle for re-election on Nov. 3 and his handling of the pandemic has drawn lukewarm support from Americans. Trump has blamed China for not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus.

“Make no mistake. We hold China fully responsible for concealing the virus and unleashing it upon the world. They could have stopped it, they should have stopped it. It would have been very easy to do at the source, when it happened,” he said.

Pompeo was sharply critical on Monday of China’s military buildup in the South China Sea, saying Beijing had offered no coherent legal basis for its ambitions there and that it had been bullying its neighbours.

“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire,” Pompeo said.

Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, is in Paris this week for talks with European officials about China and Chinese telecom firm Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., amid Western concerns that Huawei’s technology poses a threat to national security.

‘Merit-based immigration’

At the same news conference, Trump said he will “soon” be signing a “merit-based immigration action” in response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling that found his 2017 move to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was “arbitrary and capricious.”

“We’re going to take care of DACA because I’m going to be doing, in the not too distant future, pretty soon, I’m going to be signing a new immigration action — very, very big merit-based immigration action — that based on the DACA decision, I’ll be able to do,” Trump told reporters.

DACA protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants — often called “Dreamers” — who entered the United States illegally as children.

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