Sa performance should be decided. Determined. Straight ahead. Donald Trump speaks for only ten minutes on Friday afternoon in the rose garden. Foreign and finance ministers silently stand by his side. Trump focuses on his text, avoids spontaneous interjections – and doesn’t answer any questions.
It is the counter-program to the usual Trump in the White House park. In other words, the Trump who deviates from the topic, who quips, comments corrosively, jokes with confidants, answers dozens of questions and puts at least one reporter in his grandson. None of that on Friday. The “press conference” to which the White House has invited turns out to be only a statement.
Trump is so concentrated that it has not been seen in a long time. No wonder. The pressure on the President is enormous. Over 40 million unemployed, more than 100,000 corona deaths, a recession that has not occurred since the Great Depression.
The economic forecast that is common in summer simply leaves the White House out. There is already enough bad news. Now the United States is experiencing violent riots and a debate about racism after the brutal death of a black man, killed on the street by a white policeman.
Trump’s plans are mixed up
A good five months before the presidential election, Trump loses the central success of his tenure with the abrupt end of the economic and job boom in these weeks. With the escalating relationship between Washington and Beijing, a goal that he has envisaged is also moving far away: namely, good agreement with China, with his “friend”, Head of State Xi Jingping.
In January, Trump praised his “great relationship with President Xi”. He praised Beijing’s handling of the corona crisis 15 times. The dealmaker had concluded a bilateral trade agreement Trump, as he likes to call himself, is always in view. But is such a deal still realistic?
Trump announced on Friday that he would instruct the US government to end the policy that gives Hong Kong “a different and special treatment.” In doing so, he is responding to the security law that Beijing has enacted to be able to use its own resources to combat the freedom movement in the special administrative zone.
“Hong Kong has been a bastion of freedom,” Trump says. That was over now. Beijing has transformed the principle “one country, two systems” into “one country, one system”. Washington is depriving Hong Kong of its special status under US law. This could result in exports from Hong Kong being subject to similarly high US tariffs as those from mainland China.
Chinese students are suddenly at risk
For Chinese students who pose “a potential security risk,” entry will be suspended, Trump said. Since the corona crisis has cost the United States many victims, he has accused Beijing of being non-transparent in Beijing.
On Friday, he announced the end of the cooperation with the World Health Organization WHO, which he believed to be a “puppet” in China. Only two weeks ago, he called on the WHO to “make substantial improvements within the next 30 days”. This period is actually still running.
Trade conflict, mutual allegations in the Corona crisis, disagreement about Hong Kong – almost 50 years after US President Richard Nixon established relations with China, the relationship between the two powers is now at a low point.
The question is: what sanctions will the United States still impose? What about visa-free travel between the U.S. and Hong Kong? Can America avoid the freedom-loving people in Hong Kong – and the various companies there – being hit by the punitive actions? And what does all this mean for the future of Taiwan?
So far, the Trump administration has argued that it has brought China to the negotiating table with punitive tariffs. It was negotiated for a long time and achieved its first partial success in the trade dispute. The US has not changed China’s basic behavior in any way.
Trump had no interest in Hong Kong
Trump has always attacked China’s “unfair” trade policy more than human rights violations by the authoritarian-communist system. He regularly hugged President Xi on Twitter. Hong Kong’s freedom has never been a matter close to Trump’s heart. In 2014, the businessman Trump even sounded that President Obama should stay out of the protests in Hong Kong, “we have enough problems in our own country”.
Trump had to be pushed for his announcements on Friday. Leading Democrats and Republicans have long been staring at Hong Kong in Congress. Senators and MPs from both parties condemned the so-called security law as soon as it was announced.
They signed a statement condemning Beijing’s “unilateral introduction of national security laws in Hong Kong”. They also called on governments worldwide to unite against the “blatant violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration”.
They see the law, which has meanwhile been passed by the Chinese bogus parliament, as an attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms. It violated the Sino-British Joint Declaration on the basis of which Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997.
The statement was initiated by Hong Kong Watch, a UK-based non-governmental organization that advocates autonomy, freedom and the rule of law based on the “one country, two systems” principle. Hong Kong Watch reports that 728 parliamentarians from 36 countries have signed the paper.
Senators and MPs support the initiative
The initiative was driven by the British Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong and later EU commissioner. In Washington, eight senators and 21 House MPs have since joined the statement.
Among them are leading foreign policy makers from the Congress. Senators Marco Rubio, Acting Chairman of the Secret Service Committee, and Ted Cruz are two vehement Trump supporters. At her side is one of the President’s harshest critics: Democrat Adam Schiff, head of the House Secret Service committee.
This party political consensus, unusual in Washington, shows the weight of the initiative. Signatories to the declaration also include MEPs from a number of parliaments, including Great Britain, Sweden, Lithuania and Slovakia and the European Parliament.
Hong Kong Watch has signed Vice President Claudia Roth and former Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin (both Greens) from the German Bundestag. A broad, unconventional alliance has been formed for the freedom of Hong Kong – from Trump’s confidante to Claudia Roth and 13 other members of the Bundestag.
“If the international community cannot trust Beijing to keep its word when it comes to Hong Kong, people will be reluctant to take it up in other matters,” the statement said.
Clear words from the congress
Far before Trump, just under a week ago, his national security advisor Robert O’Brien threatened China with sanctions. Similar clear words come from the congress. Hong Kong’s special treatment is due to its autonomy, which enables free markets and the rule of law, Senator Rubio tweeted a week ago: “If Hong Kong loses its autonomy, China will have to lose the benefits it receives from Hong Kong.”
The United States would stand by the tens of thousands who are protesting China’s plan to “smash Hong Kong’s autonomy through national security legislation.”
Trump has long held back on Hong Kong. Some now remember their soft-wax solidarity with Hong Kong after Congress passed a bipartisan law in late 2019 that would require sanctions against China for human rights violations in Hong Kong.
At that time, the president only threatened to veto, then signed the law and claimed that he stood by Hong Kong and freedom. He immediately restricted the process of concluding “the largest trade agreement in history” with China. And finally, President Xi is “a friend of mine”.