The US will end the exports of US-origin defense equipment to Hong Kong, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday, citing the need to protect American national security as the tensions between the US and China continue to escalate.
“As Beijing moves forward with passing the national security law, the United States will today end exports of U.S.-origin defense equipment and will take steps toward imposing the same restrictions on U.S. defense and dual-use technologies to Hong Kong as it does for China,” Pompeo said in a statement.
“The United States is forced to take this action to protect U.S. national security. We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China.”
Pompeo added that the US is taking steps to restrict exports to Hong Kong of US defense and dual-use technologies.
The step marks the first action the Trump administration has taken to upend the special-status trade relationship between the US and Hong Kong following the determination that Hong Kong was no longer autonomous from China due to Beijing imposing a new national security law for Hong Kong last month.
Pompeo on Monday specifically warned of the materials falling into the hands of Beijing’s People’s Liberation Army.
“We cannot risk these items falling into the hands of the People’s Liberation Army, whose primary purpose is to uphold the dictatorship” of the Chinese Communist Party “by any means necessary,” he said, adding that there would be additional measures in this vein without providing details.
“It gives us no pleasure to take this action, which is a direct consequence of Beijing’s decision to violate its own commitments under the U.N.-registered Sino-British Joint Declaration,” Pompeo said.
“Our actions target the regime, not the Chinese people. But given Beijing now treats Hong Kong as ‘One Country, One System,’ so must we. The United States is reviewing other authorities and will take additional measures to reflect the reality on the ground in Hong Kong.”
Pompeo had certified to Congress last month that Hong Kong no longer enjoys a high degree of autonomy from China.
That decision came after Beijing introduced controversial national security legislation that he denounced as a “disastrous decision.”
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross also said Monday that export license exceptions would be suspended for Hong Kong.
“Commerce Department regulations affording preferential treatment to Hong Kong over China, including the availability of export license exceptions, are suspended. Further actions to eliminate differential treatment are also being evaluated. We urge Beijing to immediately reverse course and fulfill the promises it has made to the people of Hong Kong and the world,” Ross said.
President Donald Trump said last month that Chinese Communist Party officials would face consequences over the legislation.
“The United States will also take necessary steps to sanction PRC and Hong Kong officials directly or indirectly involved in eroding Hong Kong’s autonomy and just — if you take a look — smothering, absolutely smothering, Hong Kong’s freedom. Our actions will be strong. Our actions will be meaningful,” Trump told reporters on May 30.
The proposed law has prompted protests in Hong Kong and has been denounced internationally, with observers warning it could curtail many of the fundamental political freedoms and civil liberties guaranteed in the agreement handing over the city from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
Last year, Congress passed and Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act in support of the region’s pro-democracy protesters. Under that law, the US must annually verify to Congress that Hong Kong remains autonomous from China, or it risks losing its special status.
This story has been updated with an additional announcement from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.