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The US will no longer be exporting weapons or other sensitive technological equipment to Hong Kong. This is a direct result of China's newest imposition of security legislation, designed to bring Hong Kong more directly under mainland control.
This disruption in the territory's special trade status with the US is the first in what may be more measures taken by the state department to revoke the special trade status that has benefitted both the US and Hong Kong since the British handoff of the island to China in 1997.
The fear on behalf of the state department is that the defensive weapons could end up in the hands of the communist party, and be used against Hong Kong's pro-democracy activists.
US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, stated that the Trump administration could "no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China" amid Beijing's decision to introduce the controversial legislation, according to the Financial Times.
This move comes a month after President Donald Trump warned Chinese officials as well as Hong Kong that the special trade status was in danger of being revoked if China did not stop its legislative incursions into Hong Kong's autonomy.
China has leaned into the territory in recent years, especially coming down hard on pro-democracy activists' activities that have swept through the city over the past years.
The US shipped around $1.4 million worth of defence items to Hong Kong last year. The vast majority of those defence items were firearms used by police and prison officers.
“Materially speaking, the policy change can only be considered moderately important, since Hong Kong's economy is so heavily geared toward services rather than manufacturing,” said Kurt Tong, a retired diplomat who served as the US consul-general in Hong Kong until 2019.
This US decision comes as the two world powers continue to clash over trade, economics, and the fallout of the Chinese-originated COVID-19, that has caused massive global disruptions in the industries of health, fuel, and trade, and cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
China announced yesterday its intent to impose visa restrictions on US residents.
Hong Kong has been the locus of pro-democracy protests for over a year as pro-democracy activists have pressed China for universal suffrage, among other demands. The unrest began when Carrie Lam, the CCP backed Chief Executive of Hong Kong, authorized an extradition bill that would send Hong Kongers facing charges to the mainland for trial, thereby diminishing the island's autonomy.
While this policy was revoked in September 2019, the unrest continued, as Hong Kong residents from across the social and economic spectrums sought to assert their rights. After the declaration of a global pandemic and while the west refocussed its energy on the coronavirus contagion, China has made overt and obvious moves to gain control over the island metropolis.