Biden administration maintains Trump policy on Hong Kong

The Biden administration has concluded that Hong Kong should not receive preferential treatment under US law after Beijing cracked down on the pro-democracy movement and undermined autonomy in the territory.

Antony Blinken, secretary of state, said Hong Kong did not warrant the preferential status that the former British colony was given when it was returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” model that was supposed to guarantee a certain amount of autonomy for five decades.

“Over the past year . . . China has continued to dismantle Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, in violation of its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Hong Kong’s Basic Law,” Blinken said in making the annual determination to Congress required by the Hong Kong Policy Act.

Last year, Donald Trump became the first US president to declare that Hong Kong was no longer sufficiently autonomous from China to deserve special status, including trade privileges. Earlier this month, the UK said China was violating the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration.

China last year imposed a draconian national security law in an effort to clamp down on the activities of democracy activists. The passage of the law, which was introduced without consideration by Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing legislature, paved the way for the arrest of dozens of activists, including Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow.

Earlier this month, China took more action to eviscerate the little democracy enjoyed by the 7m residents of the financial hub by significantly cutting the number of lawmakers directly elected to the legislature by the people. At the time, the administration of President Joe Biden described the move as a “direct attack” on autonomy in Hong Kong.

Blinken said China and Hong Kong had taken multiple actions that warranted the determination, including arbitrary arrests and politically motived prosecutions, in addition to pressure on the judiciary and media.

“I am committed to continuing to work with Congress and our allies and partners around the world to stand with people in Hong Kong against the PRC’s egregious policies and actions,” Blinken added.

The US determination on Hong Kong marks the latest in a number of examples that show the Biden administration is taking a much harsher approach to China than many foreign policy experts had expected.

While Biden has stressed the need to work with allies — a difference from the Trump administration — he has taken a tough line on everything from Hong Kong and Taiwan to Chinese human rights abuses against Uyghurs, which his administration on Tuesday formally labelled as “genocide”.

Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter

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