Blinken Stands By Trump-Era Decree, Says China Undoing Hong Kong's Autonomy

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken backed a stance made by former President Donald Trump's administration, saying that China is undoing Hong Kong's autonomy.

"Over the past year, the People's Republic of China (PRC) has continued to dismantle Hong Kong's high degree of autonomy, in violation of its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and Hong Kong's Basic Law," Blinken wrote in a statement on Wednesday. "In particular, the PRC government's adoption and the Hong Kong government's implementation of the National Security Law (NSL) have severely undermined the rights and freedoms of people in Hong Kong."

Blinken's statement also included a Hong Kong Policy Act Report, which cited security laws imposed on Hong Kong by the PRC as well as the arrest and detention of individuals that protested in support of democracy in Hong Kong.

"In conjunction with this year's report, I have certified to Congress that Hong Kong does not warrant differential treatment under U.S. law in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1, 1997," Blinken added in his statement.

Blinken's statement on Wednesday was similar to a one issued by then–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2020, when he asserted the Trump administration no longer viewed Hong Kong as a self-governing nation, independent of mainland China.

"Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997," Pompeo wrote in a statement issued in May 2020.

Antony Blinken
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the release of the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, at the State Department in Washington, D.C. on March 30. Blinken warned Tuesday that human rights were declining around the world as he voiced outrage at situations in China, Myanmar, Syria and other nations. Mandel Ngan/Getty

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The decision is yet another indication that President Joe Biden's administration has not strayed from the hard line that was taken by President Donald Trump on China. On Tuesday, the State Department once again repeated the Trump administration's characterization of Chinese treatment of Uighur Muslims and other minorities in China's western Xinjiang region as "genocide."

The certification to Congress is required by the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, which passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support in 2019 and was signed into law by Trump.

The law requires the U.S. to impose sanctions against officials held responsible for human rights abuses in Hong Kong as well as determine whether the city continues to warrant special status. Both the Biden and the Trump administrations have imposed sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials as a result of the determinations.

Under the terms of a China-Britain agreement, Hong Kong was to have enjoyed significant autonomy from the communist government in Beijing for 50 years starting in 1997. That autonomy was to have included protections for free speech and self-rule under what China has termed a "one country, two systems" policy.

"We will continue to call on the PRC to abide by its international obligations and commitments; to cease its dismantlement of Hong Kong's democratic institutions, autonomy, and rule of law; to release immediately and drop all charges against individuals unjustly detained in Hong Kong; and to respect the human rights of all individuals in Hong Kong," Blinken said.