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President Trump Announces The End Of Special Relationship With Hong Kong


This afternoon, President Trump said he is ready to take action on China over its treatment of Hong Kong.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: China has replaced its promised formula of one country, two systems with one country, one system. Therefore, I am directing my administration to begin the process of eliminating policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment.

KELLY: This after China announced earlier this week it was going to impose a new national security law in Hong Kong. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move by Beijing eroded the autonomy Hong Kong was promised back when Britain handed it back to China. Now the president has announced a raft of measures on Hong Kong and other issues relating to China that he says are designed to hold it accountable.

Well, to understand all this we're joined by NPR's John Ruwitch. Hi, John.

JOHN RUWITCH, BYLINE: Good afternoon.

KELLY: I want to dive right in on Hong Kong. What measures is President Trump saying the U.S. is going to take?

RUWITCH: The president said that the administration would begin the process of getting rid of the various policy exemptions that give Hong Kong different and special treatment from the rest of China. And there are many of them, and he said the full range of agreements is basically on the table - from the U.S. extradition treaty with Hong Kong to export controls on dual-use technologies. He said the State Department's going to update its travel advisory for Hong Kong, reflecting the fact that he thinks there's a danger of surveillance and punishment from the Chinese state security apparatus now in Hong Kong. He'll take action to revoke Hong Kong's treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China, which is huge. And significantly, he said that there would be steps taken to sanction Chinese and Hong Kong officials who are involved in, in his words, absolutely smothering Hong Kong's freedoms.

KELLY: Did he link this, John, to the pandemic? Because the president has been repeatedly blaming China for the coronavirus. Is that part of what's in the mix here?

RUWITCH: That was part of what he was talking about. On the pandemic, you know, he repeated accusations against China for mishandling the initial outbreak and blamed the Chinese government again for causing it to spread worldwide. But he aimed his action in a bit of a different direction. He aimed at the WHO. He said, you know, China has total control of the WHO - those are his words - and had ignored its obligations to that body. And he announced today that the U.S. was terminating its relationship with this U.N. body, the WHO. What that means and how it plays out is unclear. There were no further details, but, you know, the administration already cut funding to the WHO over the pandemic. And today they are taking it a step further.

KELLY: Yeah. He sure did. A big headline there - just not to bury it - that the U.S. is terminating its relationship with the WHO, according to President Trump. He also - I just want to throw in, he also announced measures on Chinese students coming here to the states, right?

RUWITCH: He did. And this gets to accusations that he's leveled against China before, that China's conducted widespread industrial espionage over the years. So he said he would issue a proclamation, and did so, that will suspend entry to the U.S. of some Chinese people who are deemed potential security risks. And that proclamation, you know, said it would really affect people linked to or involved in military projects.

KELLY: Just a couple seconds, but in a sentence or two, how significant is all this?

RUWITCH: Well, Trump said U.S. actions are going to be strong and meaningful. At this point, I think it's not a lot of action, just steps that could lead to action. But, you know, the relationship is unraveling at great speed.

KELLY: All right, NPR's John Ruwitch. Thank you, John.

RUWITCH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Ruwitch is a correspondent with NPR's international desk. He covers Chinese affairs.