Mike Pompeo says Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday declared Hong Kong no longer autonomous from China, as intense clashes break out between police and pro-democracy protesters.

Pompeo said the Chinese Communist Party’s plan to impose new security measures was “only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms.”

“No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” he said, adding that he informed Congress that Hong Kong no longer warrants treatment “in the same manner as US laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997” when Britain returned control of the territory to China.

A change in status could directly affect whether Hong Kong retains its position as a world financial center and open it up to sanctions.

Protesters gathered en masse in the Central business district and at the Causeway Bay shopping area, where riot police responded by firing pepper balls and warning the crowds to disperse or face prosecution.

Journalists were warned to stop filming the protests.

At least 360 people have been arrested across Hong Kong on charges of unauthorized assembly, driving too slow, blocking traffic and possession of items that could be used for unlawful purposes.

Police assembled outside the legislative building, where lawmakers debated a bill that would make it illegal to insult or abuse the Chinese national anthem, “March of the Volunteers,” in Hong Kong and would carry sentences of up to three years in prison and a fine of about $6,450 USD.

Pro-Communist Party lawmakers said the law would instill a “patriotic spirit.”

“Western democracies all have laws to protect their national flags, national anthems and emblems. Any insulting acts toward these symbols would also be criminal,” lawmaker Tony Tse said during the debate.

But pro-democracy lawmaker Charles Mok said the legislation was intended to control people’s speech and ideas.

“We oppose the second reading of the national anthem bill, not because we don’t respect the national anthem. The national anthem is a symbol of the country’s dignity. If it wants to be respected, then let this government first respect the rights and freedoms of its people first,” Mok said.

The debate is expected to continue Thursday.

With Post wires

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