07/15/2020, 09.36
HONG KONG - CHINA - USA
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Trump punishes Beijing for Hong Kong's (lost) freedoms

by Paul Wang

The law cancelling Hong Kong's tax privileges and punishing banks and organizations linked to Chinese personalities who erode the freedom of the territory has been signed. Beijing responds by threatening sanctions "to defend China's legitimate interests". Regina Ip: Trump's decision is "barbaric and unreasonable". The New York Times moves the digital office from Hong Kong to Seoul.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - US President Donald Trump yesterday cancelled Hong Kong's special economic status, accusing China of "oppressive actions" against the former British colony, and in particular citing Beijing's national security law, which many say penalizes the territory’s liberal lifestyle.

During a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Trump explained: "Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” Trump. “No special privileges, no special economic treatment, and no export of sensitive technologies."

Hong Kong had enjoyed special tax privileges for a long time. Recently because of the trade war, many Chinese companies had moved their headquarters to the territory to escape the taxes imposed on the mainland’s products.

Trump also signed a bill passed by Congress that imposes sanctions on banks and organizations that deal with Chinese personalities responsible for implementing the security law. There will also be sanctions and prohibitions against these Chinese personalities.

Beijing's response was not long in coming: this morning the foreign ministry said it would impose sanctions on individuals and organizations in the United States, "to defend China's legitimate interests." The statement also claims that "Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs and no foreign country has the right to interfere."

Regina Ip, a strongly pro-Beijing MP from Hong Kong, called Washington's move "barbaric and unreasonable", admitting that it will have consequences for academic exchanges and tax issues. In any case, Ip maintains there will be no consequence on the international character of Hong Kong as a financial center.

Meanwhile, however, the New York Times today announced its decision to move its staff for the digital edition from Hong Kong to Seoul.

Some journalists will remain in the area, but for the NYT, the new security law "shakes journalist organizations and creates uncertainty about the city's prospects as a center for journalism".

Until now, many journalists and newspapers who found operations difficult and sometimes impeded in China, had moved to Hong Kong where they could follow Chinese events without problems. The new law, which combats subversion, secession, terrorism and collaboration with foreign forces, also penalizes the dissemination of news that can be interpreted as support for such actions.

Trump's new law adds an additional element to the tug of war that has characterized the relationship between the United States and China for some years, following on the heels of charges laid at Beijing regarding the coronavirus pandemic, the military escalation in the South China Sea , the suffocation of religious freedom and in particular the treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang.

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