Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Sunday warning China that the U.S. would take action if authorities interfere with the work of American journalists in Hong Kong. 

Why it matters: It's the latest escalation in disputes between the U.S. and China about the source of the coronavirus outbreak, trade and the media. It comes as pro-democracy demonstrations have resumed in Hong Kong.

What he's saying: "It has recently come to my attention that the Chinese government has threatened to interfere with the work of American journalists in Hong Kong," Pompeo said.

  • "These journalists are members of a free press, not propaganda cadres, and their valuable reporting informs Chinese citizens and the world."
"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."

Background: On March 17, China announced it was canceling the press credentials of most U.S. journalists from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post — effectively expelling over a dozen U.S. journalists. The move came after the U.S. expelled about 60 Chinese state media workers several weeks earlier.

  • The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said the expelled journalists would not be permitted to work in Hong Kong — an unprecedented restriction on the freedom of U.S. journalists to operate in the former British colony, which has previously operated with a high degree of autonomy from the mainland.

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