Trump signs executive order to hold China accountable for actions against Hong Kong

Honk Kong 2014” (CC BY 2.0) by Lukas Vojir

Yesterday, President Trump announced two actions his administration has taken against China. This has happened as tensions between Washington and Beijing continue to increase.

During a press conference in the White House Rose Garden, Trump announced:  “I signed legislation and an executive order to hold China accountable for its oppressive actions against the people of Hong Kong. No administration has been tougher on China than this administration.”

The Hong Kong Accountability Act was signed after the legislation was passed in both the Senate and the House earlier this summer. The purpose of this legislation is to impose sanctions on all entities that violating Hong Kong’s autonomy as well as financial institutions that do business with them. It comes as a response to the tightened Beijing’s seize on Hong Kong that has been semi-autonomous from mainland China since 1997.

China has been slowly encroaching on Honk Kong’s autonomy

Honk Kong was handed over to China 23 years ago with a condition to keep a high degree of autonomy from mainland China and a British-style rule of law — a “one country, two systems” framework. China has slowly encroached on this autonomy leading U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to declare it “no longer autonomous” earlier this year.


China enacted a new law beginning this summer that says that whoever destroys government facilities and/or utilities will be considered a subversive person. Damaging public transportation facilities and utilities constitute acts of terrorism.

The Chinese law, implemented earlier this summer, says that those who destroy government facilities and utilities would be considered subversive. Damaging public transportation facilities and arson would constitute acts of terrorism. Any person who organizes or participates in activities against the system would violate the law. That applies even if no violence was used. Under the new law, police obtained sweeping powers to conduct searches without warrants and order internet service providers and platforms to remove messages deemed to be in violation of the legislation.

Trump is striking back

Trump’s executive order will subject exports from Hong Kong to the same tariffs imposed on goods from mainland China. That is a blow for leaders in Beijing as they struggle to revamp their economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision is an attempt to curb China’s increasing assertiveness in the region with a commitment to recognizing international law. Cooperation between China and the U.S. have deteriorated steadily over the coronavirus pandemic, human rights, Beijing policy toward Hong Kong and trade. 

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the U.S. move had “seriously damaged China-U.S. relations” and that China was determined to uphold its national sovereignty against what it sees as interference in its internal affairs.