US bans arms exports to Hongkong

The US will bar the export of weapons and sensitive technology to Hong Kong, as it revokes the territory’s special trade status in response to China’s imposition of national security legislation on the Asian financial hub.

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, said the Trump administration could “no longer distinguish between the export of controlled items to Hong Kong or to mainland China” in the wake of Beijing’s decision to introduce the controversial legislation, which could come into force this week.

The move comes a month after President Donald Trump warned Hong Kong that he would revoke the special trade status that the territory has enjoyed since Britain returned its former colony to China in 1997. The US says the move to impose the law by circumventing Hong Kong’s legislature shows that the territory is now longer autonomous from mainland China.

Some police expenditures went on US-imported ammunition worth US$10.05 million between 2005 and 2012, official records show. Hongkong imported Grenade launchers, mortar, sniper rifles, machine guns and gun silencers are among the weapons, according to the SIPRI.

Since the handover, Hong Kong has been governed under a “one country, two systems” framework that is scheduled to expire in 2047. In recent years China has imposed a heavier hand on the territory in an effort to clamp down on pro-democracy protests that have swept the city.

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Monday’s move was largely symbolic given that the US shipped only $14m of defence goods to Hong Kong last year, according to the state department. The vast majority of that was firearms for police and prison officers.

One US official said it would prevent Hong Kong from procuring equipment such as cameras, processors and microprocessors. He said restrictions on cameras, and other surveillance equipment, were important given China’s repression of Muslim Uighurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang.

The decision marks the latest escalation in tension between the countries, as they clash over everything from trade and economics to blame for Covid-19.

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