US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned China not to interfere with American journalists working in Hong Kong, because tensions between the two countries over press freedom and other issues continue to escalate.
The two parties expelled each other’s reporters in a tit-for-tat manner in recent months because they had barbed deals on the coronavirus pandemic, and US President Donald Trump threatened to impose new trade tariffs.
Pompeo said in a statement on Sunday: “What I have recently noticed is that the Chinese government threatened to interfere with the work of American journalists in Hong Kong.”
These journalists are members of press freedom, not propaganda cadres. “
Pompeo did not explicitly criticize China, nor did he give specific examples, but the statement was the latest US response after expelling more than a dozen US journalists from Beijing.
Pompeo said: “Any decision to protect Hong Kong’s independence under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law will inevitably affect our assessment of the status of one country, two systems and territories.”
“One country, two systems” is an arrangement for Hong Kong to return to China from Britain in 1997, and it aims to guarantee the rights and freedoms of semi-autonomous cities.
In February, Chinese newspapers published a review article about the coronavirus crisis, with the headline as news that Beijing considers racist, and then China expelled three reporters from the Wall Street Journal.
A few weeks later, Washington restricted the number of Chinese citizens in US state-run news agencies.
Beijing responded in March by expelling a dozen American journalists from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also issued a landmark statement that although the financial center is nominally responsible for its own immigration policy, these journalists are not allowed to work in Hong Kong.
The semi-autonomous financial center is a major regional base for international media, in part because it has certain freedoms denied by the authoritarian continent. In the past, foreign journalists deported from China often moved to Hong Kong.
The decision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs caused shock to the media and business groups, who feared that this would set a new precedent, and that international companies in Hong Kong might become hostages to the tension between the United States and China.
The pro-Beijing government in Hong Kong has not clearly stated whether it has the discretion to allow any expelled journalists to enter, including one expelled from a U.S. citizen who has permanent residency in Hong Kong.