Secretary Pompeo Warns China: Respect the Free Press in Hong Kong

May 18, 2020 Updated: May 18, 2020

U.S. journalists’ rights in Hong Kong must be upheld, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Sunday, warning the Chinese communist regime against further suppression of the free press.

Pompeo revealed that he had been alerted by intelligence to such a threat from the Chinese regime and said any action that would weaken Hong Kong’s sovereignty would require the United States to reassess how sincere China is about the Sino-British Joint Declaration it signed in 1984 as part of an agreement to return Hong Kong to Chinese rule in 1997.

“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,” he 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,” he added.

“#China doesn’t want us to know what they’re doing in #HongKong, so they’re considering interfering with American journalists stationed there. Thanks to @SecPompeo for standing up for free press!,” Congressman Jim Banks (R-In.), who serves on the Armed Services Committee, wrote on Twitter.

Pompeo announced on May 6 that the department would be delaying its report to Congress on the status of Hong Kong’s autonomy until after Beijing’s May 22 political event.

“First, I mentioned Hong Kong last week. Right now we are delaying our report to Congress that will assess Hong Kong’s autonomy, to allow us to account for any additional actions that Beijing may be contemplating in the run-up to the National People’s Congress that would further undermine the people of Hong Kong’s autonomy as promised by China when they entered the agreement with the people of Hong Kong.”

Tensions between the United States and China have increased since the outbreak of the CCP virus in China sparked a global pandemic that has devastated the economy. President Donald Trump and his administration have criticized China’s handling of the outbreak in Wuhan, where the virus originated, for its coverup of the facts about the infectious nature of the virus and its suppression of whistleblowers who tried to warn the international community.

The United States and China have also previously clashed over journalists working in their respective countries.

In February, the Trump administration said it would begin requiring five major Chinese state-run media entities operating in the United States to register their employees and any of their U.S. properties with the State Department.

Beijing expelled two American Wall Street Journal correspondents and then banned all American nationals working in the country for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post as part of a media war with the United States.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of the Republican’s China Task Force, condemned China’s decision to expel American journalist from China.

“A pattern of disinformation issued and promoted by the Foreign Ministry amid a pandemic heightens our concerns about this unwarranted and provocative action. We urge the Foreign Ministry to immediately end its role in impeding the free flow of information globally and reverse its decision to expel American journalists,” he wrote in a letter sent to Chinese Ambassador Cui Tiankai in March.