The United States’ top envoy in Hong Kong has brushed aside a separatist party’s call for the country to effectively apply its tariff and trade policies against China to the city and reaffirmed the “very good relationship” between Washington and the city’s government.
The remarks by Kurt Tong, the US consul general in Hong Kong, came days after the Hong Kong National Party (HKNP) wrote to the US Department of State calling for the country to suspend the differential treatment between the city and China under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act, citing an erosion of the city’s autonomy and freedom.
The US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 has stipulated the White House’s policies on Hong Kong – which include treating Hong Kong separately from China on trade – since the city’s handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.
The US president can with an executive order suspend the special treatment if he or she determines Hong Kong is not “sufficiently autonomous”.
“We’ve already been very clear on that,” Tong said after a consulate function on Wednesday.
“The degree of autonomy which Hong Kong enjoys is still more than sufficient for the Hong Kong Policy Act to remain in force and that’s our position and I don’t anticipate any changes.”
Tong also reaffirmed the “very good relationship” between the US and Hong Kong despite recent hiccups.
“We look forward to maintaining that for many, many years to come in the future,” he said.
The HKNP, which is currently facing a proposed ban and has until September 14 to register its opposition, had earlier made a similar appeal in an open letter to US President Donald Trump, as well as urging him to have both Hong Kong and China kicked out of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The letter sparked severe criticism from the Hong Kong government.
In its latest letter, to the US Department of State dated September 1, HKNP convenor Andy Chan Ho-tin argued that there was no longer any sufficient basis for the country to maintain differential treatment for Hong Kong from mainland China, citing the local government’s bid in recent years to bar candidates from running in elections on grounds of their political views and to unseat popularly elected lawmakers for their oath-taking behaviour.
“The course of events concerning the Hong Kong legislature has revealed that a democratic Hong Kong under Chinese sovereignty is both logically and practically impossible,” Chan wrote. “An important basis of differential treatments between Hong Kong and China under the Policy Act – Hong Kong is expected under the Joint Declaration to be democratised after the transfer of sovereignty – has therefore proven to be no longer valid.”
Meanwhile in Guangzhou, Huang Liuquan, the deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, reiterated Beijing had “zero tolerance” over any calls for Hong Kong independence.
He was responding to a recent argument where several student leaders of different universities had mentioned the notion in their inauguration speeches.
Wang added separatist calls should be handled in accordance with the relevant laws and the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution, while young people should also learn more about the country and its history.