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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

US ends pacts with Hong Kong on extradition, shipping tax

The moves are part of the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure China over the imposition of a national security law that has led to charges against more than 20 pro-democracy activists.

By: Bloomberg | August 20, 2020 10:39:29 am
People adjust their hair and a protective mask while posing for a selfie photograph against the city skyline at night in the Tsim Sha Tsui district of Hong Kong, China (Blooomberg)

The US suspended its extradition treaty with Hong Kong and ended reciprocal tax treatment on shipping with the former British colony, the latest salvo in escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The moves are part of the Trump administration’s efforts to pressure China over the imposition of a national security law that has led to charges against more than 20 pro-democracy activists. They follow up on an executive order to end preferential trading treatment for the city, which President Donald Trump and his team say was now essentially just another Chinese city.

Hong Kong’s government said Thursday it “strongly objects” and “deplores” the decision, which it said showed the US’s “disrespect for bilateralism and multilateralism.” The administration’s move “should be condemned by the international community,” a government spokesman added, reiterating that Hong Kong would take its complaints to the World Trade Organization.

Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index was down 2.1%, in line for the biggest loss in almost a month, as of the midday trading break on Thursday. Shares on the mainland also retreated, with the CSI 300 Index losing 1.3%.

The US move follows a half-dozen other countries — including Australia, Germany and the U.K. — that have suspended extradition agreements with Hong Kong following China’s imposition of the law in late June. The Trump administration has also sanctioned 11 senior officials who oversee Hong Kong including the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, who has said she has had difficulties with credit cards.

China has responded with retaliatory measures against US senators and human rights activists, although Beijing has so far avoided senior White House officials.

More broadly, the Trump administration has engaged in an expanding clash with Beijing over everything from apps such as TikTok and 5G wireless technology to a blame game over Covid-19 and arms sales to Taiwan. Tensions and rhetoric have escalated recently as the global pandemic worsened in the US, China ramped up pressure on Hong Kong and as the US election draws closer.

The agreements terminated Wednesday “covered the surrender of fugitive offenders, the transfer of sentenced persons, and reciprocal tax exemptions on income derived from the international operation of ships,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

“These steps underscore our deep concern regarding Beijing’s decision to impose the National Security Law, which has crushed the freedoms of the people of Hong Kong,” Ortagus said.

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