Donald Trump Orders Administration to Begin Revoking Hong Kong's Special Status, Moving to Treat It Like Mainland China

President Donald Trump has ordered his administration to begin revoking the special status granted to Hong Kong under U.S. law, moving to begin treating the semi-autonomous city like the rest of China as he accused Beijing of extending its control there.

Speaking at a White House press conference Friday, Trump called the Chinese National People's Congress passage Thursday of new national security legislation for Hong Kong a "plain violation" of the country's obligations under the quasi-constitutional Basic Law and the 1984 Joint Sino-British Declaration that set the stage for the United Kingdom handing over its former colony to the People's Republic in 1997. Washington maintained special trade measures exempting Hong Kong from more restrictive requirements governing commerce with the mainland, but the president said Beijing has gone too far with its new law.

"It extends the reach of China's invasive state security apparatus into what was formerly a bastion of liberty, China's latest incursion, along with other recent developments that degraded the territory's freedom makes it clear that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to warrant the special treatment that we have afforded the territory since the handover," Trump said.

"China has replaced its promised formula of one country two systems with one country one system, he added. "Therefore, I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating the exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment."

The president said the announcement comprised "the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong" including extradition, export controls, dual-use technology, travel and customs regimes.

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Two friends chat as they stand on a promenade facing Victoria Harbour and the skyline of Kowloon in Hong Kong on May 29. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

Beijing has rejected the intervention of the United States and other foreign powers in its Hong Kong policy, which it views as an internal affair.

Earlier Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian told a news briefing in Beijing defended the National People's Congress decision "to establish and improve the legal system and enforcement mechanisms on upholding national security for the HKSAR is China's internal affair and allows no external interference."

"As for the wrong moves by the external forces to interfere in the Hong Kong affairs, we will take necessary measures to resolutely hit back," he added, without specifying what those retaliatory actions may constitute.

Hong Kong's own government has sided closely with Beijing on the issue, welcoming the new security measures aimed at curbing pro-independence currents throughout the territory and condemning outside remarks. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam released a letter to residents Friday explaining the legislation and vowing to uphold civil liberties.

Lam said the new Chinese law will "prevent, curb and sanction secession, the subversion of state power, the organization and carrying out of terrorist activities that seriously endanger national security, and interference by foreign and external forces in the affairs of the HKSAR." She said this would only target "a small minority," while the government continued to ensure "the freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of demonstration, of procession, and to enter or leave Hong Kong in accordance with the law."

Australia, Canada and the U.K. have joined the U.S. in criticizing China's moves. Prior to his press conference Friday, Trump held a conversation with U.K. Prime Minister Boris during which "the two leaders reaffirmed the importance of the Sino-British Joint Declaration and agreed to cooperate closely in responding to any action by China that undermines the Declaration or goes against the will of the people of Hong Kong," according to a readout provided to Newsweek.

The remarks come as the Trump administration adopts a harder line against the People's Republic over differing views on trade, the sovereignty of Taiwan and the South China Sea as well as the handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Newsweek reported earlier this month on a CIA report that found China had attempted to pressure the World Health Organization not to declare a public health emergency of international concern in January, something it ultimately did at the end of the month. The White House has echoed this accusation, calling on the WHO to institute deep reforms or face the U.S. leaving the autonomous United Nations agency entirely.

At Friday's press conference, Trump also announced he would terminate U.S. ties to the WHO because it had failed to comply with his directive.

China has defended its relationship with the WHO as transparent and efficient and the global public health organization itself has said it acted professionally at the advice of experts throughout the early stages of the novel coronavirus outbreak that hs infected more than 5.8 million, killing over 360,000 people and hitting the U.S. worst of all.