US actions against HK ‘will be as targeted as possible’, American consul says

01-Jun-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The United States’ consul general for Hong Kong and Macau has promised that actions Washington takes aimed at the city will be as targeted as possible, but its residents will not be adversely affected.

Hanscom Smith’s remarks came as expectations ran high US President Donald Trump will touch on Hong Kong in a press conference on China issues slated for Friday US time.

Tensions between Beijing and Washington worsened after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared to Congress that Hong Kong was no longer suitably autonomous from mainland Chinese rule, a first step towards potentially downgrading its preferential trading status.

Pompeo’s statement came a week after Beijing revealed its legislative body would impose a national security law on Hong Kong to prohibit acts of secession, subversion, terrorism or conspiring with foreign influences in the city.

Trump was expected to decide on the exact steps the US government would take, and analysts said his options ranged from sanctions on individuals to customs measures, currency exchange and visa restrictions.

Uncertainties over Trump’s move prompted panic buying of the US dollar, as worried residents rushed to banks to set up offshore accounts.

But in a media briefing on Friday, Smith, who took over as the US’ top envoy in Hong Kong last July, said: “The actions will be as targeted as possible to change behaviour. But at the same time we will do our best to ensure that the people of Hong Kong are not adversely affected. Our approach is to mitigate the impact globally on the Hong Kong people.”

A Hong Kong that maintained a high degree of autonomy would benefit the city, China, the US and the world, he said.

The decision to withhold certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy was not taken lightly

Hanscom Smith, United States’ consul

“The decision to withhold certification of Hong Kong’s autonomy was not taken lightly … We have a very simple message, that is let Hong Kong be Hong Kong,” he said.

Smith noted Pompeo had said he took no pleasure in making the determination. “But sound policymaking requires recognition of reality and facts on the ground. The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong as they struggle against the Chinese Communist Party’s increasing denial of the autonomy that they were promised,” Smith said.

The Hong Kong government’s spokesman had warned that any sanctions imposed on Hong Kong-US trade would affect more than 1,000 American companies in the city.

Asked what he might say to the firms, Smith said: “We talk to the group very regularly to make certain that they have as much information as they can about US policy, and our goals here, so they are clear as to where we stand.”

Smith declined to comment on options the US government could take, saying he could not get ahead of the White House.


Category: Hong Kong

Print This Post