May 27 (UPI) -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he has officially notified Congress that Hong Kong is in effect no longer autonomous from mainland China.
Pompeo is required under a law granting Hong Kong special trading status to certify that it retains a sufficient degree of freedom and independence from China under the "one nation, two systems" arrangement in effect since 1997, when Britain placed its former colony under Chinese rule.
But after the Chinese Communist Party last week proposed a far-reaching new security law targeting pro-democracy protesters and foreign influences in Hong Kong, Pompeo told Congress he could no longer certify the city's autonomy.
"After careful study of developments over the reporting period, I certified to Congress today that Hong Kong does not continue to warrant treatment under United States laws in the same manner as U.S. laws were applied to Hong Kong before July 1997," he said.
"No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground."
Calling the new security law "a disastrous decision," Pompeo said it was "only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong's autonomy and freedoms and China's own promises to the Hong Kong people under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, a UN-filed international treaty."
The move came as police in Hong Kong arrested at least 180 people and fired non-lethal pepper balls at protesters Wednesday as they took to the streets to demonstrate against the proposed national security law.
The loss of privileged trading status could be a major economic blow for the city, which is one of world's largest trading and financial hubs.
Under the status, Hong Kong is exempt from President Donald Trump's punitive tariffs on China and has U.S. backing for its participation in international bodies such as the World Trade Organization.