Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday warned China against interfering with the work of American reporters in Hong Kong, following China’s expulsion of several U.S. reporters from the mainland.
“It has recently come to my attention that the Chinese government has threatened to interfere with the work of American journalists in Hong Kong. These journalists are members of a free press, not propaganda cadres, and their valuable reporting informs Chinese citizens and the world,” Pompeo said in a statement. “Any decision impinging on Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms as guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law would inevitably impact our assessment of One Country, Two Systems and the status of the territory.”
The warning comes after China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters in March in response to a WSJ opinion column headline it deemed “racist.” The expulsion came during the wave of coronavirus infections in the U.S., with American officials accusing China of concealing the extent of the coronavirus outbreak at its origin in the city of Wuhan.
Before the pandemic, Hong Kong was wracked by protests against Beijing-backed administrators. Protests originally erupted after Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam attempted to pass a law that would allow residents of the city to be extradited to mainland China if they were suspected of committing a crime on the mainland. Pro-democracy activists saw the move as a breach of Hong Kong’s relative autonomy and freedom from China.
Protests have subsided with the onset of the coronavirus. However, pro-democracy and pro-Beijing lawmakers scuffled on the floor of Hong Kong’s parliamenton Monday in ongoing tensions between the two factions.