May 18, 2020 - World

Pompeo warns China not to interfere with U.S. journalists in Hong Kong

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.

Go deeper

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Beijing forces a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, the once semi-autonomous city's status as one of Asia's largest financial hubs is at risk.

Why it matters: Political freedoms and strong rule of law helped make Hong Kong a thriving center for international banking and finance. But China's leaders may be betting that top firms in Hong Kong will trade some political freedoms for the economic prosperity Beijing can offer.

Hong Kong police fire pepper pellets at demonstrators

Hong Kong riot police issue a warning as they aim to clear away people gathered downtownon Wednesday. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong riot police fired pepper pellets at activists and surrounded the Legislative Council during demonstrations against a bill proposing to criminalize "disrespect of the Chinese Anthem" on Wednesday, per Reuters.

Why it matters: The bill is the latest concern pro-democracy protesters have that Chinese authorities are encroaching on the high degree of autonomy the former British colony has retained since it was returned to China in 1997.

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand has only eight active novel coronavirus cases and no COVID-19 patients in hospital after reporting another day of zero new infections. However, the death toll rose to 22.

Zoom in: A top health official told a briefing a 96-year-old woman "was regarded to having recovered from COVID-19 at the time of her death, and COVID-19 is not recorded as the primary cause of her death on her death certificate." But health officials decided to include her death in the overall tally of deaths related to the virus.