WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Friday his administration would withdraw from the World Health Organization and move to revoke Hong Kong’s special trading status.
Trump did not give a timeline or specify exactly what privileges would be yanked from Hong Kong, a global financial hub that could see its status tarnished by the move.
Trump said Hong Kong is notentitled to special treatment by the United States, because it is no longer autonomous from mainland China. He said he would direct his advisers to begin the process of eliminating the “full range” of perks that Hong Kong now enjoys, which includes export controls, tariff exemptions and other benefits.
Trump also said he would formally end the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization, blasting the multilateral institution as a tool of China.
“Chinese officials ignored their reporting obligations to the World Health Organization and pressured the World Health Organization to mislead the world,” Trump said, referring to China’s handling of the coronavirus.
Trump made the announcements during a Rose Garden event in which he leveled a long list of complaints against China – from engaging in unfair trade practices to hiding the scope and severity of the deadly coronavirus.
“The Chinese government has continually violated its promises to us and so many other nations,” Trump said, reading from a teleprompter and taking no questions from reporters.
“The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” the president said. He repeated accusations that China engaged in a cover-up of the novel coronavirus that began in Wuhan before mushrooming into a global pandemic.
Trump’s two decisionscome after Xi Jinping’s government moved to impose a so-called “national security” on Hong Kong, which critics say is aimed at snuffing out pro-democracy protests that have roiled Hong Kong for months.
Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been escalating for weeks as Trump has blamed China for an alleged cover-up about the coronavirus outbreak. Chinese officials initially censored warnings about the virus and later circulated false theories asserting the coronavirus originated with the U.S. Army.
The already frayed U.S.-China relationship took a more serious turn this week after China adopted a new security law that threatens Hong Kong’s autonomy, leading the Trump administration to declare it no longer considers the city to be autonomous from mainland China.
China’s new law would ban sedition, secession and other forms of subversion by Hong Kong residents against Beijing. It would also allow China’s secretive state security agencies to operate in the city, sparking fear about possible arrests of pro-democracy activists.
The legislation, adopted Thursday in China’s rubber-stamp Parliament, will not take effect immediately. Chinese officials have defended the law as necessary for the country’s national security and for Hong Kong’s prosperity.
Superpower struggle:China approves sweeping national security legislation for Hong Kong, jeopardizing the city’s autonomy and angering Washington
Trump announced his decision to revoke Hong Kong’s trade status even as Washington and Beijing are in the middle of trying to implement ‘phase one’ a trade deal reached earlier this year.
Critics warned China’s new national security law for Hong Kong could spell the end of civil liberties in the city and cripple its status as a global financial hub. The Trump administration joined the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia in warning China’s action is destabilizing and “in direct conflict” with its international obligations.
The law “raises the prospect of prosecution in Hong Kong for political crimes and undermines existing commitments to protect the rights of Hong Kong people,” a joint statement said.
Hong Kong was returned to China from British control as a semiautonomous territory in 1997 – on the condition that China maintained a “one country, two systems” framework guaranteeing freedoms not found on the mainland – including freedom of speech and an independent judiciary.