US business groups caution against haste

Local | 28 May 2020 10:52 am

Business groups are urging U.S. President Donald Trump to go slowly in responding to Bejing’s planned imposition of new national security laws on Hong Kong, warning revoking the city’s special U.S. privileges will hurt the territory and its people.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared on Wednesday China's actions had voided Hong Kong's autonomy.

That cleared the way for White House steps ranging from imposing sanctions on some senior Chinese officials to fully ending the 22-year U.S. practice of treating Hong Kong separately from China on trade, visas, investments and export controls.

Hong Kong’s special status has helped keep the former British colony of 7.5 million - which hosts operations of 1,300 U.S. companies and some 85,000 American residents - one of the world’s premier financial hubs since reverting to Chinese rule in 1997.

“The text of the law in China has not yet been released. Words matter,” said Craig Allen, the president of the U.S.-China Business Council. The group would like to see all sides “de-escalate and maintain the ‘one-country two systems’ model for Hong Kong, which has served everyone so well for so many years,” he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday stressed here jeopardizing Hong Kong's special status would be a "serious mistake."

Pompeo’s declaration leaves room to move slowly, and acting quickly could inflict pain on Hong Kong and waste U.S. leverage over Beijing, said Scott Kennedy, a senior adviser and China expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The U.S. declaration has “opened the door to massive changes but they have not walked through it yet,” Kennedy said. “It may rattle markets and have executive suites examining Plan Bs and Plan Cs but not necessarily immediately moving.”

Pressure in the U.S.-China relationship is mounting over issues including trade, technology restrictions and the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives backed legislation calling on Trump to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for oppression of China’s Uighur Muslim minority.



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