The United States State Department on Wednesday said the Donald Trump administration has suspended or terminated three bilateral agreements with Hong Kong, Reuters reported. The move is the latest in a series of decisions by the US following China’s imposition of national security law in June that grants security agencies expansive powers in the semi-autonomous region.
In a statement, the State Department said the agreements covered “surrender of fugitive offenders, transfer of sentenced persons, and reciprocal tax exemptions on income derived from the international operation of ships”.
“These steps underscore our deep concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose the National Security Law, which has crushed the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong,” State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said.
Ortagus said the action was taken because of Chinese Communist Party’s steps to erode the autonomy of Hong Kong that Beijing had itself promised, AP reported.
Responding to the notification, the Hong Kong government said the US’ decision to stop the agreements was disrespectful of “bilateralism and multilateralism” and the action should be condemned globally.
“The HKSAR Government strongly objects to and deplores the US action, which is widely seen as a move to create troubles in the China-US relationship, using Hong Kong as a pawn,” said the government.
In June, China’s Parliament had passed the legislation for Hong Kong that would override local laws and give sweeping powers to security agencies. The unprecedented law is aimed at curbing protests – which rocked Hong Kong last year – and prohibiting subversion, separatism, “acts of foreign interference”, and terrorism. These charges are often used in the Chinese mainland to stifle dissidents and political opponents. The new law will also allow China’s security personnel to operate in Hong Kong.
Under the new law, certain political views and symbols, including those showing support for the independence of Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang and Tibet from China, are now illegal. Officials in Hong Kong and Beijing have said the law is vital to plug gaps in national security exposed by the protests. Critics say China’s law ends the freedoms that were guaranteed for 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement when British rule ended in 1997.
Various countries have criticised Beijing’s actions. On August 7, the Trump administration had imposed sanctions on Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam and 10 other senior officials in the territory and mainland China over their alleged roles in curtailing political freedoms and suppressing dissent. New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have scrapped its extradition treaty with Hong Kong because of China’s law.