China media, Hong Kong lash out at Trump’s threat of curbs

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HONG KONG/BEIJING: China's state media and the government of Hong Kong lashed out yesterday at US President Donald Trump's vow to end Hong Kong's special status if Beijing imposes new national security laws on the city, which is bracing for fresh protests.

Mr Trump on Friday pledged to "take action to revoke Hong Kong's preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory", and to impose sanctions on unspecified individuals over Beijing's new laws on the Asian financial centre.

But China's state media pushed back, saying this would hurt the US more than China.

"The baton of sanctions that the United States is brandishing will not scare Hong Kong and will not bring China down," China's Communist Party mouthpiece, the People's Daily, wrote in a commentary. It used the pen name Zhong Sheng, meaning Voice of China, often used to give the paper's view on foreign policy issues.

The Global Times wrote: "China has already prepared for the worst. No matter how far the US goes, China will keep its company."

A Hong Kong government spokesman expressed regret that the US continued to "smear and demonise the legitimate rights and duty of our sovereign" to safeguard national security.

In a sign of diplomatic manoeuvring, the US government said it would put one of its prime Hong Kong properties up for sale - a luxury residential complex worth up to HK$5 billion (S$911 million).

A spokesman for the US consulate in Hong Kong said this was part of a global programme that "reinforces the US government's presence in Hong Kong" through reinvestment in other areas.

China and Hong Kong officials said the laws will apply only to a small number of "troublemakers".

Protesters, however, have said they are railing against China's encroachment on Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms despite Beijing's promise to grant the city a high degree of autonomy under a so-called "one country, two systems" formula since it reverted from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

More protests are planned in the coming weeks.

Details of the laws remain unclear but are expected to be enacted by China's parliament this summer.

The laws will outlaw secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference and will be imposed without any local legislative scrutiny. - REUTERS