President Trump announced Friday he plans to “revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment,” as it’s “no longer sufficiently autonomous” from China.
Good. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Congress last week, Beijing has sounded the “death knell” for Hong Kong’s freedoms.
The execution comes 27 years early: The UK-China treaty that shifted the territory to Beijing’s rule in 1997 guaranteed it special status for 50 years under the “one country, two systems” rubric.
That let Hong Kong flourish as a top world financial center and commercial mecca — and a huge asset to the mainland as a gateway for global investment. Notably, it prompted Washington to grant Hong Kong favorable trading status and exempt it from tariffs imposed on China.
But there’s that “death knell”: Beijing’s new law prohibits acts of “treason, secession, sedition or subversion,” criminalizes dissent and lets the Communist government place national-security agencies in the city. Another new law, criminalizing “disrespect” of the mainland’s national anthem, reinforces the message.
As Hong Kongers gathered to protest, the authorities arrested hundreds for unauthorized assembly and blocking traffic — and ordered journalists to quit filming as riot police fired on the crowds.
This has been coming for a while: The huge protest movement began last year when Beijing sought subtler means of control, a bill to allow extradition from Hong Kong to mainland (kangaroo) courts.
The regime’s crackdowns prompted Congress to require the secretary of state to report on whether Hong Kong retains the quasi-independence that justifies its US trade privileges. Pompeo was simply doing his job in saying it doesn’t.
Beijing plainly saw the pandemic as a good time to move, starting with last month’s arrest of more than a dozen high-profile pro-democracy activists. With much of the globe asking awkward questions about the pandemic’s beginnings, China’s rulers may have figured they’d lost world opinion anyway. Plus, governments out to save their economies may flinch from, say, hitting China with new sanctions.
But they need to, because Beijing won’t stop here. It’s already upping its threats to Taiwan and its broader efforts to browbeat all its neighbors into submission and threatening freedom of navigation in the area, as Trump noted Friday.
US law gives President Trump the power to impose penalties for Beijing’s evildoing, and he’s indicated he’ll use it — though he declined to offer specifics Friday. He needs to follow through:. If China doesn’t pay a huge price for crushing Hong Kong, it’ll move on to other targets.
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