US President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Tuesday which ended trade preferences with Hong Kong. He also signed a law that imposes sanctions on Chinese officials, businesses and banks that help China restrict Hong Kong's autonomy.
The law had been passed with bipartisan support in Congress earlier this month.
In a news conference held in the White House Rose Garden, Trump said Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China — "no special privileges, no special economic treatment and no export of sensitive technologies."
"Their freedom has been taken away; their rights have been taken away. And with it goes Hong Kong, in my opinion, because it will no longer be able to compete with free markets. A lot of people will be leaving Hong Kong," he added.
End to special treatment
The executive order calls for blocking the US property of any person determined to be responsible for or complicit in "actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Hong Kong." A document released by the White House also states US officials can "revoke license exceptions for exports to Hong Kong," and the order revokes special treatment for Hong Kong passport holders.
Under the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, the US treated Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous part of China with its own legal and economic system, differently than the Chinese mainland in trade, commerce and other areas.
The bipartisan support for the legislation came in reaction to China's controversial national security law, aimed at restricting political dissent in Hong Kong. It is part of the Trump administration's offensive against the Chinese government, which the president has widely criticized for its handling of the coronavirus crisis.
China vows retaliation
In a statement on Wednesday, China slammed the US sanctions legislation, saying it "maliciously slanders" the national security law imposed in Hong Kong.
"China will make necessary responses to protect its legitimate interests, and impose sanctions on relevant US personnel and entities," the Foreign Ministry said.
Trump lashes out at Biden
During the same event in Washington on Tuesday, Trump also spoke about his rical for the upcoming presidential elections, Joe Biden. He criticized the democrat on a number of issues, ranging from his stance on China to his plans to increase funding for addressing climate change.
''As vice president, Biden was a leading advocate of the Paris Climate accord, which was unbelievably expensive to our country. It would have crushed American manufacturers while allowing China to pollute the atmosphere with impunity, yet one more gift from Biden to the Chinese Communist Party,'' he said.