In Test of Trump, China Says US Lacks Power to End Trade Status

Security guards tackle pan-democratic legislator Chan Chi-chuen at the main chamber of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on Thursday. Holding a placard says, “A murderous regime stinks for ten thousand years,” Chan dropped a pot of a pungent liquid in the chamber. (AP Photo/Chan Cheuk Fai/Initium via AP)

WASHINGTON (CN) — China brushed off the threat that the United States will end a designation that gives Hong Kong’s special trading privileges, saying Thursday that such a sanction would violate World Trade Organization rules.

“If the United States disregards the fundamental principles of international relations and adopts unilateral measures according to its domestic laws, it will violate WTO rules and will not be in the interest of the United States,” Gao Feng, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Commerce, said at a press conference Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had announced that Hong Kong would lose its privileges last week, days after China began its legislative session with the introduction of a bill that bans secessionist activity in the territory. Though China made the bill official last Thursday, its text is still not public. Likewise the United States has not released a specific timetable on its planned sanctions, which put billions in trade dollars on the line.

Because it is considered autonomous from China’s Communist government, Hong Kong has enjoyed special trade and economic relations with global partners since 1997, a position that has spared the territory a great deal of fallout in the U.S.-China trade war.

China’s Feng emphasized Thursday, however, that Hong Kong’s special trading status is recognized by all WTO members and does not solely depend on the U.S.

He said Hong Kong’s financial market is “running smoothly” and that Trump’s move would “not harm the interests of foreign investors.”

Coinciding with global coronavirus pandemic, however, Hong Kong’s loss of special status would ramp up the countries’ trade war, further rattling investors.

Several Republican senators have endorsed Trump’s sanctions.

“The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong,” Republican Senator Scott Perry of Pennsylvania tweeted on May 28. “@SecPompeo was right to declare Hong Kong no longer autonomous from China. The CCP continues to violate the freedoms and independence of HK and many others. China should face sanctions already authorized by US law.”

In Colorado, Republican Senator Cory Gardner has used the situation to push a defense bill he’d penned.

“My language calls for a ‘fundamental re-evaluation of the special treatment of Hong Kong under the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992’ if Beijing fails to live up to its commitments to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and respect for the rights of Hong Kongers,” he tweeted May 27.

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