American firms awake to ‘sad day’ as Trump vows to curb economic ties
“This is an emotional moment for Americans in Hong Kong and it will take companies and families a while to digest the ramifications,” AmCham president Tara Joseph said in a statement.
“Many of us … have deep ties to this city and with Hong Kong people. We love Hong Kong and it’s a sad day,” she said, adding the chamber would continue to work with its members to maintain Hong Kong’s status as a vital business centre.
China’s parliament this week approved a decision to create laws for Hong Kong to curb sedition, secession, terrorism and foreign interference. Mainland security and intelligence agents may be stationed in the city for the first time – moves critics say put the city’s extensive freedoms at risk.
Authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong insist the legislation will target only few “troublemakers” who threaten China’s national security. They say such action is urgently needed after months of sometimes violent anti-government protests rocked the city last year.
Protests movements are simmering again as Hong Kong emerges from its coronavirus shutdown. Demonstrators are expected to take to the streets on Sunday.
Trump did not name any sanctions targets but said the announcement would “affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong”, including the US-Hong Kong extradition treaty to export controls on dual-use technologies and more “with few exceptions”.
The Global Times, published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said Trump’s decision was a “recklessly arbitrary” step.
The Hong Kong government – which has a long history of working ties with the US, distinct from Beijing – has yet to respond, although it warned on Thursday the move could be a double-edged sword.
More than 1300 US firms have offices in Hong Kong and provide about 100,000 jobs. In the past decade, the US trade surplus with Hong Kong has been the biggest among all its trading partners, totalling $US297 billion ($445 billion) from 2009 to 2018.
Washington has also worked quietly with Hong Kong on anti-terrorist and money-laundering efforts, and US envoys have long valued Hong Kong’s separate membership in some large international economic organisations.
“Hong Kong is an articulate champion of free markets and effective champion of free markets and the reduction of trade barriers,” according to a fact sheet on the US Consulate’s website.