China passed the Hong Kong security law, and, in response, the United States ended arms exports to Hong Kong and restricted the territory’s access to hi-tech products on Monday (local time) as it moves to strip away the special status of the territory. Amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing, Hong Kong’s future is as uncertain as ever.
“Commerce Department regulations affording preferential treatment to Hong Kong over China, including the availability of export license exceptions, are suspended,” Reuters reported quoting U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Further actions to eliminate differential treatment are also being evaluated.” This came one day before the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover by the United Kingdom in 1997. “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,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in his statement. “We can no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China."
Concerns are rising that the U.S. removal of Hong Kong’s special status which includes lower trade tariffs would trigger “Hexit,” a compound of Hong Kong and exit that describes a situation where global capital and human resources scramble out of the city. Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she did not fear any restrictions from Washington.
Despite the pressure from the United States, China formally adopted the security law on the same day. According to South China Morning Post (SCMP), the legislation was passed unanimously at the National People’s Congress Standing Committee 15 minutes after it was put to vote. The new law will be added as a supplementary provision to the Hong Kong Basic Law, which is the territory’s de facto constitution, and is expected to come into effect on July 1.
Under the new security law, anyone who commits acts of secession, subversion terrorism or collusion with foreigners can be sentenced to a life sentence.