President Trump took a harsh stance against China today by signing The Hong Kong Autonomy Act, an executive order that sanctions Chinese officials and banks, and more importantly, ends preferential treatment for trade with Hong Kong. This executive order comes in response to China’s new sedition laws that strip away Hong Kong’s independence. It is a clear message to Beijing that there gradual infringement onto what is an “autonomous zone” will not be tolerated by the United States.
In the White House Rose Garden, Trump told reporters, “Today I signed legislation, an executive order, to hold China accountable for its aggressive actions against the people of Hong Kong.” The purpose of the executive order is to put pressure on China to lift their new restrictions on Hong Kong by taking away economic privilege given by the United States. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, wrote on Twitter, “Two weeks ago, China broke its promise by passing a new law which effectively eliminates the rule of law and judicial independence in Hong Kong. The world has watched as Hong Kong’s freedom is being smothered by China. This is NOT what the people of Hong Kong asked for.”
China’s foreign ministry has already responded to the executive ordered, and said the country will retaliate. Beijing, without going into detail, said they will impose sanctions “against related U.S. institutions and individuals,” in order to protect their “legitimate interests.”
Why this matters: The United States’ relationship with China has been on edge for years. Called the “new cold war” by many political pundits, China has slowly been taking away Hong Kong’s rights, as well as moving more aggressively into the South China Sea. Under President Trump’s administration, the Department of Defense and the State Department have been putting China on watch for their military exercises in a de-militarized zone. And now, the White House moved forward to put an end to how China has been treating Hong Kong. As tensions rise between the two countries, it will be an important campaign talking point for both candidates with how they plan to deal with China, and what the future relationship looks like between the two countries.